Pope Francis visited Hungary at the start of his first major foreign outing since his summer operation, where he was scheduled to meet right-wing leader Viktor Orban.
The pontiff, who underwent an intestinal intervention in July, will celebrate a mass in Heroes’ Square in Budapest to mark the end of a major Catholic conference to be held in the city. Some 75,000 people are expected.
He will also meet with Hungarian religious figures and the country’s political leaders. This is a brief stopover before his main four-day stay in Slovakia.
The Vatican and the trip organizers stressed that Francis was invited to Hungary only to celebrate Mass, and not to carry out a state and pastoral visit as he does in Slovakia.
He and Mr Orban disagree on a host of issues, including migration, and Francis’ limited stay in Budapest may indicate that he did not want to give Mr Orban’s government the political impetus to welcome him. for a longer pilgrimage before the general elections next year. .
“At first there were a lot of people who were angry [that Francis wasn’t staying longer], but now I think they understand, “said Reverend Kornel Fabry, secretary general of the conference in Budapest.
Rev. Fabry noted that a majority of Hungarians support Orban’s migration policies, “that we should not bring the problems to Europe but should help where the problems lie.”
Mr. Orban has often described his government as a defender of Christian civilization in Europe and a bulwark against migration from predominantly Muslim countries.
Francois expressed his solidarity with migrants and refugees and criticized what he called “national populism” put forward by governments like Hungary’s. He urged governments to welcome and integrate as many migrants as possible.
Mr. Orban’s government also passed a law banning the representation of homosexuality in educational institutions. Francis has previously indicated that he accepts homosexuality on an individual level.
About 39% of Hungarians identified themselves as Roman Catholics in a 2011 census, while 13% identified themselves as Protestant, Lutheran or Calvinist, a Protestant branch to which Mr. Orban is affiliated.
Additional reporting by Associated Press
The Independent Gt