Pope Francis’ visit to Budapest, Hungary
May 12, 2023
Day 1, April 28
Meeting with Hungarian President and Prime Minister
On his arrival in Budapest, Hungary, the Pope signed the country’s Book of Honour, writing in Italian: “I come as a pilgrim and friend to Hungary, a country rich in history and culture; in Budapest, city of bridges and of saints, I think of all Europe, and pray that, in unity and solidarity, it might be, in our times, too a house of peace and a prophecy of welcome.”
European unity ‘crucial’ to peace
The Pope challenged the nations of Europe to recapture a spirit of fraternal unity and pursue “creative efforts for peace”. Speaking to Hungarian civil authorities in Budapest he said: “In the post-war period, Europe, together with the United Nations, embodied the noble hope that, by working together for a closer bond between nations, further conflicts could be avoided.
“We seem to be witnessing the sorry sunset of that choral dream of peace as the soloists of war now take over. More and more, enthusiasm for building a peaceful and stable community of nations seems to be cooling, as zones of influence are marked out, differences accentuated, nationalism is on the rise, and ever harsher judgments and language are used in confronting others.” He offered a different vision for Europe’s future.
“How much better it would be to build a Europe centred on the human person and on its peoples, with effective policies for natality and the family – policies that are pursued attentively in this country – a Europe whose different nations would form a single family that protects the growth and uniqueness of each of its members,” he said.
In a sense, the Pope said, the city of Budapest symbolises that vision.
“The most famous bridge in Budapest, the chain bridge, helps us to envision that kind of Europe, since it is composed of many great and diverse links that derive their solidity and strength from being joined together.
“The Christian faith can be a resource, and Hungary can act as a ‘bridge builder’ by drawing upon its specific ecumenical character. Here, different confessions live together without friction, cooperating respectfully and constructively.” —CNA
Solutions to loss of faith ‘come from the tabernacle, not the computer’
Clergy and others discouraged by a shortage of priests and ebbing faith in the West were encouraged to pray for God’s help, saying the solutions will “come from the tabernacle and not the computer.”
“I want to assure you that good pastoral ministry is possible if we are able to live as the Lord has commanded us, in the love that is the gift of His Spirit,” the Pope said, speaking to an audience of approximately 1,000 Hungarian priests, seminarians and pastoral workers gathered in St Stephen’s Co-Cathedral in Budapest.
“If we grow distant from one another, or divided, if we become hardened in our ways of thinking and our different groups, then we will not bear fruit,” he warned. “It is sad when we become divided, because, instead of playing as a team, we start playing the game of the enemy: bishops not communicating with each other, the old versus the young, diocesan priests versus religious, priests versus laity, Latins versus Greeks.”
Such divisions lead to polarisation along entrenched ideological lines, the Holy Father said. “No! Always remember that our first pastoral priority is to bear witness to communion, for God is communion and He is present wherever there is fraternal charity,” he said.
To combat “bleak defeatism and a worldly conformism,” Pope Francis said, “the Gospel gives us new eyes to see” as well as discernment that enables us to “approach our own time with openness, but also with a prophetic spirit.” He added that we are called to “prophetic receptivity.”
“Prophetic receptivity is about learning how to recognise the signs of God in the world around us, including places and situations that, while not explicitly Christian, challenge us and call for a response,” the Holy Father said. “At the same time, it is about seeing all things in the light of the Gospel without yielding to worldliness, as heralds and witnesses of the Christian faith.” — CNA
Day 2, April 29 Visiting children with visual impairments
The second day included a visit with children and adults with visual impairments and other disabilities.
Arriving in his wheelchair at the Blessed László Batthyány-Strattmann Institute, he received a tour and was greeted by songs and a reception.
The Holy Father was not expected to give remarks but spoke briefly from the heart, encouraging those present to walk “alongside the reality of the poor,” the sick, and the needy, because, he said, “this is pure Gospel.”
“Jesus came to take on reality as it is, and to bring it forward. It would have been easier to take ideas or ideologies and bring them forward, without taking into account reality. [But] this is the way of the Gospel, this is the way of Jesus,” he said.
At the end of the visit, the children and residents joined the Pope in praying the Our Father, which they had learned in Latin. They also presented him with a handmade gift: a woven bag in the colours of the Argentinian flag and the Argentinian soccer team.
For his part, the Pope left them with a statue of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. — CNA
Blessing a Greek Catholic Church
Pope Francis paid a brief visit to the Greek Catholic community in Budapest (Protection of the Mother of God Church), which serves the Catholic faithful of the Byzantine rite. He was welcomed at the entrance by Archbishop Péter Fülöp Kocsis, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Hajdúdorog, and together they walked to the Iconostasis, while the choir sang in the background.
After a brief greeting with the archbishop there was a moment of prayer, led by Pope Francis, with the community. The Pope was handed a cross and blessed the Greek Catholic community of Hungary. — Vatican News
Speak the language of charity
Jesus came to bring “glad tidings to the poor,” Pope Francis recalled during a meeting with poor people and refugees in Budapest.
“Those in need — let us never forget — are at the heart of the Gospel,” he insisted.
The Pope addressed some 600 people, most of them refugees from Ukraine aided by the Caritas charity, gathered inside St Elizabeth of Hungary Church. Local authorities estimated another 1,000 people gathered outside the church.
He evoked the example of Hungary’s beloved 13th-century princess- saint, known for her piety and heroic service to the poor, saying Elizabeth spoke “the language of charity.”
Referring to the statue of Elizabeth he had passed in Rózsák Square before he entered the church, the Pope recalled how the saint “not only sold her possessions but also spent her life serving the poor, lepers, and the sick, personally caring for them, even carrying them on her own shoulders. That is the language of charity.”
The Pope thanked the Church in Hungary for its “generous and wide-ranging service to charity.”
“Thank you, too, for having welcomed — not only with generosity but also with enthusiasm — so many refugees from Ukraine,” he said. More than 1.5 million Ukrainians have crossed into Hungary since the beginning of the war more than a year ago.
“Sadly, many people, even here, are literally homeless. Many of our more vulnerable sisters and brothers — living alone, struggling with various physical and mental disabilities, devastated by the poison of drugs, released from prison or abandoned because they are elderly — are experiencing severe material, cultural, and spiritual poverty; they have no roof over their heads and no home in which to live,” he lamented.
Charity, he said, is “much more than material and social assistance. It has to do with the whole person; it strives to put people back on their feet with the love of Jesus: a love that helps them to recover their beauty and their dignity.”
The Pope concluded by reiterating his call to speak, like St Elizabeth of Hungary, the “language of charity.” — CNA
Meeting with former No. 2 official
The Pope held private talks in Hungary with Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Budapest, the Moscow Patriarchate’s former “foreign minister”, a meeting that was not part of the published programme of his April 28-30 visit.
“Hilarion is someone I respect very much, and we have always had a good relationship,” the Pope told journalists on Sunday evening as they accompanied him on his flight back to Rome.
Francis did not share what he and the Russian Orthodox bishop spoke about. And the Vatican would only say that the meeting, which took place on Saturday morning at the papal nunciature in the Hungarian capital, lasted about 20 minutes and was “cordial”.
The Pope has met several times over the years with Hilarion, who was removed from his post as Moscow Patriarch’s head of External Church Relations in June 2022 and made Metropolitan of Budapest. The 56-year-old bishop is now spiritual leader of the tiny Russian Orthodox community in Hungary.
Although his discussions with the Pope were not about his country’s war in Ukraine, which is less than three hours’ drive east of Budapest. But most observers believe the two men likely discussed their respective positions on the conflict. Since the beginning of the war in February 2022, contacts between the Holy See and the Patriarchate of Moscow have dwindled considerably. — LCI (https:// international. la-croix.com/)
Day 3, April 30 Christ calls us by name and sends us forth
Hungarians have been called to be “open and inclusive,” reflecting on how Jesus wants His flock to share the abundant life they’ve received from Him.
Pope Francis said this during Holy Mass with tens of thousands of faithful gathered in Kossuth Lajos Square in central Budapest.
The Holy Father based his homily on the Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, which focuses on the figure of the Good Shepherd. A good shepherd, he said, “gives his life for his sheep.”
“Jesus, like a shepherd who goes in search of his flock, came to find us when we were lost,” he said. “Like a shepherd, He came to snatch us from death.”
Christ, the Good Shepherd, does two things in particular for His sheep, the Pope continued: He calls His sheep by name, and He leads them out.
Pope Francis reminded the faithful that God calls each of us by our name, desiring “to save us from sin and death, to give us life in abundance and joy without end.”
The Pope went on to explain that, as Christians, we are all “called by name by the Good Shepherd, summoned to receive and spread His love, to make His fold inclusive and never to exclude others.”
From this, he said, it follows that we are called to build fraternity and avoid divisions, “opening our hearts to mutual love.”
Be open doors!
Addressing bishops and priests, and all those who are “shepherds” within the Church, the Pope called them to be “increasingly open doors, ‘facilitators’ of God’s grace.
He likewise called on the lay faithful, including catechists and pastoral workers, political and social leaders: “Be open doors! … Be open and inclusive, then, and in this way, help Hungary to grow in fraternity, which is the path of peace.” — Vatican News/CNA
Pope warns against technological domination
Pope Francis warned of the risk of technological domination and the threat it poses to culture and to our human ecology.
He also spoke about the false freedoms offered by both communism and consumerism, and encouraged people to seek out Christ’s truth.
On April 30, the Pope addressed approximately 250 people, including 30 students, from the Faculty of Information Technology and Bionics at the Pázmány Péter Catholic University in Budapest.
The visit was the final meeting in Francis’ three-day trip to Hungary’s capital. In his speech, Pope Francis made extensive reference to the 20th-century intellectual, Romano Guardini, a Catholic priest, theologian, and philosopher, and the author of the book Letters from Lake Como: Explorations in Technology and the Human Race. “Guardini did not demonise technology, which improves life and communication and brings many advantages, but he warned of the risk that it might end up controlling, if not dominating, our lives,” Pope Francis said.
The priest, he added, “foresaw a great threat: ‘[in that case] we lose all the inner contact that we might have derived from a sense of proportion and the following of natural forms. We become inwardly devoid of form, proportion, and direction. We arbitrarily fix our goals and force the mastered powers of nature to bring them to fulfilment.’”
Guardini, said Francis, “left posterity with a troubling question – ‘What will become of life if it is delivered up to the power of this dominion?’”
“A system of machines is engulfing life …
Can life retain its living character in this system?” Guardini asked in one of the letters in his book. “Can life retain its ‘living’ character?” the Pope repeated. “This is a question that is proper to ask, particularly in this place, which is a centre of research into information technology and the bionic sciences.”
At the university, Pope Francis also warned of the “false notion of freedom” offered by the ideologies of communism and consumerism.
He quoted Jesus’ words that “the truth will make you free” and said “communism offered a ‘freedom’ that was restricted, limited from without, determined by someone else”.
“Consumerism,” instead, he added, “promises a hedonistic, conformist, libertine ‘freedom’ that enslaves people to consumption and to material objects.” The way forward, Pope Francis said, is truth:
“The key to accessing this truth is a form of knowledge that is never detached from love, a knowledge that is relational, humble and open, concrete and communal, courageous and constructive. That is what universities are called to cultivate and faith is called to nurture.” — CNA