Kicking off his first apostolic visit to Hungary on Friday, April 28th, Pope Francis praised Europe’s diversity of national cultures while denouncing the countries that choose to beat the war drums instead of working for peace. The pontiff also spoke out against divisive ideologies, such as the gender and the pro-choice movement in particular, while setting the Hungarian constitution as an example for Europe.
While there were numerous instances in the past when Pope Francis expressed political opinions different from those of the Orbán government, his messages during his official address at the presidential Sándor Palace in Budapest seemed to resonate with much of what Prime Minister Orbán has been advocating for lately.
Most importantly, the pontiff’s speech focused on calling for de-escalation instead of raising the tensions in Ukraine, similar to the often rebuked Hungarian position on the war. For it was the cooperation and mutual respect between nation-states that fostered the long, peaceful period in Europe after the Second World War, Pope Frances said, but today
we seem to be watching as the soloists of war come to the fore, while the singers of peace disappear. At the international level, there is much incitement to hatred and wartime infantilism now. Politics tends to be more about stoking tempers than finding solutions.
We need to return to the original intentions of the founding fathers of Europe, Francis underlined, who were working toward unity and not divisions. Harmonious coexistence can only exist if the whole doesn’t suppress its components, both on individual and national levels.
In this sense, Pope Francis believes that Hungary and the Hungarian constitution can offer guidelines to all of Europe. “We declare that individual freedom can only flourish in cooperation with others. We believe that our national culture contributes to European diversity,” Francis quoted the constitution from 2011.
The pope also had a few words about wokeism, but not what the Left would have expected. While continuing to praise Europe’s diversity of thought, Pope Francis stated that
the vile path of ideological colonialism is the one that obliterates differences, as in the case of gender culture, or when it tries to sell the restriction of freedom as progress.
He also added that the legalizing of on-demand abortion is always a great defeat of decency, no matter how the pro-abortion lobby tries to frame it as an achievement.
“Hungary can become a builder of bridges, utilizing its unique ecumenical character,” the pope then added. For, much like the Chain Bridge that was the first to permanently connect the two halves of Budapest over the Danube, Hungary should be regarded by Europe as a bridge that connects different cultures and ideas in these turbulent political times.
On the first day of his three-day trip to Hungary, Pope Francis met with the country’s highest political representatives, including Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the Carmelite Monastery and President Katalin Novák at the Sándor Palace, the official residences of Hungary’s two highest offices, both located in the Buda Castle overseeing the Danube.
During his stay, the pontiff will also meet with representatives of the Hungarian clergy, civil society, several refugees from Ukraine and the Middle East, as well as members of the Jesuit Order, from among whom his journey toward papacy also began.
On the final day of the visit, Pope Francis will celebrate Sunday Mass on Kossuth Square in front of the Hungarian Parliament, an observance which is expected to be attended by tens of thousands of faithful.
According to the last census, Catholicism is the most popular religion in the country, with 39% of the total population self-reporting as such, followed by the protestant (mostly Calvinist and Lutheran) churches, who stand at nearly 15% combined. Most other Hungarians (45%) described themselves as non-religious or preferred not to answer.