Pope Francis sets off on his three-day Apostolic Visit to Hungary aboard the papal plane bound for Budapest, following a meeting at the Casa Santa Marta with a group of 15 homeless people.
By Devin Watkins
The papal plane took off from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport on Friday morning at 8:21 AM, as Pope Francis began his Apostolic Journey to Hungary.
Ahead of his departure, the Pope met briefly with 15 people who sleep rough around St. Peter’s Basilica, who were accompanied to the Casa Santa Marta by Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Service of Charity.
The ITA Airways A320 neo is scheduled to arrive in Budapest, the Hungarian capital, at around 10:00 AM (GMT+2).
As a side note, a former employee of Alitalia (now ITA Airways), told Vatican News that the Italian flag carrier has always guaranteed the Pope’s departure by preparing two identical planes with all the trimmings, in case either were to experience last-minute technical difficulties that could hinder or delay takeoff.
In Hungary, Pope Francis will kick off his Apostolic Visit with the customary encounter with the EU nation’s president and prime minister, speaking also to civil servants and diplomatic corps.
During his three days in Budapest, the Pope will meet with the local Church’s clergy and ministers, as well as with young people and refugees.
Sunday will see him celebrate Mass in Budapest’s Kossuth Lajos Square for the country’s Catholic faithful, which make up around 37 percent of the population.
A visit ‘to the centre of Europe’
Ahead of his departure, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin told Vatican Media that the Pope will visit only Budapest, rather than traveling to other parts of the country, in order to pack as many encounters as possible into his tight schedule, as well as to celebrate the city’s 150th anniversary.
He told Massimiliano Menichetti that Pope Francis’ visit fulfills a promise he had made to return for a proper Apostolic Journey, following his 7-hour stay in the Hungarian capital in mid-September 2021 to celebrate the closing Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress.
Though the focus of his journey to Hungary remains fixed on strengthening the faith of the local Church, Cardinal Parolin said the Pope also hopes to encourage refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, while expressing his gratitude to the local Church for its assistance in welcoming over 4 million Ukrainians who have traveled through Hungary in search of safety.
“Although there are only a few of them left – the figures give around 35,000 – the local Catholic Church, through Caritas in particular, but also with the help of the government, has done its best to welcome and care for these refugees as they continue their journey to other European countries,” said the Cardinal Secretary of State.
As Pope Francis said himself at the Regina Coeli on Sunday, 23 April, his Apostolic Journey to Hungary “will also be a journey to the centre of Europe, on which icy winds of war continue to blow, while the movements of so many people put urgent humanitarian issues on the agenda.”