Tens of thousands of people traveled to Budapest to hear from Pope Francis, who called on his audience to be “open” and “considerate”.
Pope Francis met Hungarian anti-migration Prime Minister Viktor Orban on an emergency trip to the country in which he called for greater openness, before setting off on a four-day tour of Slovakia.
During the visit to Hungary on Sunday which lasted only seven hours, the Pope urged tens of thousands of people thronging the vast Heroes’ Square in Budapest that he wished them to be “rooted and open, rooted and caring ”.
The leader of 1.3 billion Catholics has often called for help for the marginalized and those of all faiths fleeing war and poverty.
Thousands of people gathered on a nearby main boulevard, along which screens and speakers had been installed, while others watched from balconies and other neighboring buildings.
“The Pope never says anything without a reason. Her words are well chosen and carry a subtle message, ”said Zsuzsanna Pusztai, 75.
Hungary is true to its roots, but the Pope noted that “the cross also invites us to extend our arms and not to entrench ourselves,” he said while celebrating the closing Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress.
Francis met with Orban and other senior politicians.
“I asked Pope Francis not to let Christian Hungary perish,” Orban posted on his Facebook page, along with a photo of both hands shaking.
Tomorrow i start my #TravelApostolic in Budapest and Slovakia. I ask everyone to accompany me in prayer, and I entrust this visit to the intercession of so many heroic confessors of the faith, who, in the midst of hostility and persecution, have testified to the Gospel in these places.
– Pope Francis (@Pontifex) September 11, 2021
As a gift, Orban gave the pontiff a copy of a letter written by King Bela IV to Pope Innocent IV in 1250 asking for help against the Mongol warriors who threatened Christian Hungary.
The Vatican called the meeting “cordial,” saying they discussed protecting the environment and promoting the family, among other topics.
There was no love lost between supporters of Orban and the Catholic leader. The media and pro-Orban politicians have called Francis “anti-Christian” for his pro-refugee feelings.
Earlier, Francis told the Hungarian bishops that various ethnic and religious groups had “turned this country into a multicultural environment”, presenting a “great opportunity”.
In contrast, Orban’s iconic attacks on migration have included border fences and detention camps for asylum seekers.
Upon arriving in Slovakia after his visit to Hungary, the Pope said that a greater sense of community was needed in Europe and less divisions.
“It is difficult to expect that Europe will be more and more influenced and enriched by the gospel if we… are not yet fully united and indifferent to one another,” he said.
He said it was difficult to call for a Europe more influenced by faith without taking into account that the people of the region are still divided.
It is the first time that a Pope has visited Slovakia in 18 years and it has a busy itinerary.
Along with the official appointments, Pope Francis is also planning to visit a housing estate in Kosice which is home to thousands of Roma who live there despite difficult conditions. It also has to stop at Presov and the small town of Sastin-Straze.