Pope Francis will make an apostolic visit to Budapest in the last days of April, the Vatican News confirmed. The trip will be the pontiff’s second visit to the country.
Pope Francis’ 41st apostolic journey was announced in a statement published by the Holy See Press Office on Monday, February 26th. “Accepting the invitation of the civil and ecclesial Authorities, His Holiness Pope Francis will make an Apostolic Journey to Hungary from 28 to 30 April 2023, visiting the city of Budapest,” the statement reads.
Over the three days, Pope Francis will meet with refugees from Ukraine, representatives of the academic and cultural world, bishops and other religious authorities, as well as leaders of the civil society and the political sphere, including Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and President Katalin Novák.
According to the pontiff’s official itinerary, the welcome ceremony will be held in Buda Castle, at the Sándor Palace (the residence of the president of Hungary), followed by a meeting with the prime minister and addressing the authorities and diplomatic core at the former Carmelite Monastery, which serves as the prime minister’s seat.
In the past, Pope Francis has implicitly criticized PM Orbán’s anti-immigration policies, among others, so this visit could signal the improvement of diplomatic relations. In January, the prime minister also traveled to Rome to pay respect to the late Pope Benedict XVI, Francis’s predecessor.
On the second day, Pope Francis will have a private meeting with the Hungarian members of the Jesuit order after visiting poor people and refugees, while on the third day he will celebrate holy Mass on Kossuth square, in front of the Hungarian Parliament.
Although this is the pope’s second visit to Budapest, it is his first official apostolic journey. As the Vatican later clarified, the pope only stopped briefly in the Hungarian capital in 2021—to celebrate the closing Mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress—on his way to Slovakia.
In 2019, Pope Francis paid a visit to Hungarian civil and ecclesial leaders, but not in Hungary. The pontiff instead celebrated a Mass at Csíksomlyó, a popular Hungarian pilgrimage site in Romania, where the Hungarian minority totals more than a million.
Therefore, it is high time the pontiff pay an official visit to Hungary, one of the most Catholic countries in Europe with a government that also puts Christianity at the center of its political ideology.