As Pope Francis prepares to depart for Hungary, our correspondent in Budapest takes a look at the joy of the Hungarian faithful, who are eager to welcome the Holy Father back to their territory.
By Deborah Castellano Lubov – Budapest
Here in Budapest, Hungary, the faithful are ready to welcome Pope Francis, for his Apostolic Journey.
With the motto “Christ is our future,” Pope Francis arrives tomorrow for his three-day travel to the Central European nation’s capital for his 41st Apostolic Journey abroad.
He follows in the footsteps of his predecessor Pope St. John Paul II who visited Hungary twice, in 1991 and 1996, after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
This is not however the first time Pope Francis has been in Hungarian territory: he was here to celebrate Mass for the closure of the International Eucharistic Congress in 2021.
Yet this time is different. He comes at the invitation of the civil and church authorities to visit the country, while in the background, the war in Ukraine continues.
Cardinal Peter Erdo, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, pointed out to me that the Pope’s short time spent here in 2021 was for an international event: pilgrims, bishops, priests, and lay faithful were present from 83 countries. This time, however, Francis is addressing the Hungarian local Church, which he said, gives them great honour and joy.
While it is not too evident on the streets that the Holy Father is soon to arrive, when you speak to the people they are happy to welcome him.
The Spokesperson in the Hungarian Parliament for the Ukrainian Minority says that Pope Francis stands as a symbol of faith and unity to the people of Hungary, and confirms that his appeals help the Ukrainians suffering from the war since the Russian invasion.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, nearly 1 million Ukrainian nationals have travelled through Hungary as refugees, and the Cardinal Archbishop of Budapest told me how the Church has been committed to welcoming and helping the suffering Ukrainians who have arrived here.
In fact, the Pope will meet with refugees and the poor, as well as disabled children, during his visit. His schedule also includes the celebration of Holy Mass, as well as addresses to authorities, religious, and young people.
Fr. Fabry Kornel, who is involved in organizing the youth event, told us that young people are especially in need of Pope Francis’ voice to guide them amid the challenges of being a young person in the world today, and that they need his confirmation that it is ok to be a Catholic in today’s world, living as Jesus asked us to.
The Apostolic Nuncio to Hungary, Archbishop Michael Wallace Banach, told Vatican News that the Hungarians love Pope Francis’ joy and sincerity, and take to heart that the Holy Father maintained his promise to them to return to stay among the nation’s faithful for an Apostolic Visit.