Against the backdrop of Budapest’s eminently iconic parliament, former family minister Katalin Novák, who during her tenure helped to increase Hungarian births by 25%, was officially inaugurated as president on Saturday, marking the first time in the country’s history that a female has assumed the role as head of state.
The ceremonial inauguration, intended to reflect the unity of the Hungarian nation, began in the morning with an ecumenical service at the Reformed Church in Kálvin Square, where Catholic, Calvinist, Evangelical Lutheran, and Orthodox prelates—along with principal political figures like former head of state János Áder, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and Speaker of the Parliament László Köver—were in attendance.
Zoltán Balog, the pastoral president of the Synod of the Reformed Church in Hungary who presided over the ecumenical service, noted that it was the first occasion in which Catholics, Calvinists, and Evangelicals, “accompanied by the Jewish Sabbath prayer,” asked for God’s blessings “for the first citizen of the country.”
The President received blessings from Reformed Church Bishop Zoltán Balog, Béla Kató, the head of the Reformed Diocese of Transylvania, Archbishop Péter Erdő, Hungarian Greek Catholic Archbishop Péter Fülöp Kocsis, Ignatius Aphrem II, the Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Nalja Kassab, the President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), and Arsenios Kardamakas, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Austria and Exarch of Hungary and Central Europe. Slomó Köves, the President of the Hungarian Jewish Community, extended his blessings in a letter.
Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and Primate of Hungary Péter Erdő, during his remarks, lauded Novák’s consistent and constructive position on policies concerning family and marriage.
Following the ecumenical service’s conclusion, the state ceremony then commenced at Budapest’s Kossuth square in front of the Parliament, where Ms. Novak—after being formally presented as Hungary’s new president—delivered her inaugural address to the nation.
President Novák began her inaugural speech with a warm greeting to Hungarians across the globe, expressing gratitude to both supporters and those who she has yet to win over.
As President of the Republic of Hungary, I address you for the first time. I thank you for your trust, and from this trust comes, above all, responsibility. Responsibility towards those who support me, so that I do not disappoint them, but also towards those who are still distrustful and rejecting me today.
We are here together in the heart of Europe, the nation’s capital, the middle of the Carpathian Basin, in the nation’s main public square, but we are also together in our intent and desire to create a brighter, more peaceful, richer, and more secure life for Hungarians in the 21st century after decades that led up to the moral crisis of the 20th century.
Novák pledged to work tirelessly to ensure Hungarians are understood and respected across the world, saying that the work carried out over the past decade has made it possible for Hungarians to again “live with their heads held high.”
“Hungarians’ self-confidence, identity, and national pride—which had been lacking for a long time—have returned,” she declared. “Let’s preserve and safeguard our national pride and make sure that national pride does not become national arrogance, but that it does not turn into globalist cowardice either.”
Continuing, she noted that although there are many reasons for joy, pride, and celebration, the war in neighboring Ukraine had cast a dark shadow over the lives of Hungarians and Europeans alike.
“The attack on Ukraine, after the initial shock, demanded both an immediate and, at the same time, a well-thought-out, long-term response from Hungary as well. As the first refugees arrived in the country on February 25, Hungarians rushed to their aid without hesitation,” she said, noting that some 700,000 Ukrainian refugees had safely crossed over into Hungary, where they’ve been provided with food, shelter, healthcare, education, and work.
“Hungary has passed the test of humaneness,” she declared.
Concerning the war in Ukraine, President Novák outlined the Hungarian position in 10 points:
- We condemn Putin’s aggression: the military attack on a sovereign country.
- We forever say no to all efforts attempting to restore the Soviet Union.
- We want peace in Hungary and our neighboring countries. We want to win peace, not war.
- This is not our war, but it is also waged against us. We demand the investigation and punishment of war crimes!
- We are not neutral. We stand on the side of innocent victims and justice. We will fulfill our obligations as part of the EU and NATO.
- We will not give up our sovereignty—which we have fought for so many times—under any circumstance.
- We support Ukraine’s accession to the community of European countries.
- Hungary is ready to make sacrifices for peace, but not to support decisions that would require greater sacrifices from the people of Hungary than they would cause pain to the Russian aggressor.
- We are prepared to participate in the peace negotiations between the warring parties.
- We have insisted on securing the rights of Hungarians living in Ukraine, and we will continue to do so now and after the war.
To conclude the address, Novák reiterated that her primary task as president is to “find the depth and height wherein the Hungarian people’s self-evident togetherness lies,” underscoring that the source of Hungarian sovereignty—and the unity of the nation—lies with the family. She also emphasized that her unwavering dedication to her nation and homeland remains unchanged, highlighting her obligation to serve all Hungarians regardless of their political or ideological orientation.
Commenting on Novák’s presidential inauguration in a press release, Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Relations of Hungary Zoltán Kovács wrote:
As president of Hungary, Novák will strengthen Hungarians in what she personally believes: In a set of values based on Christianity, in encouraging the transmission of life, the upbringing of children in love, the protection of human life and the family, respect for one another, and support for the weak.
Novák is set to officially assume office on Tuesday.
Robert Semonsen is a political journalist based in Central Europe. His work has been featured in various English-language news outlets in Europe and the Americas. He has an educational background in biological and medical science. His Twitter handle is @R_Semonsen.