Pope Francis is making a quick trip to Hungary in his first big international outing since undergoing intestinal surgery in July, celebrating a Mass and meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose right-wing, anti-immigrant policies clash with Francis’ call for countries to welcome refugees.
Francis is opening a four-day trip to Slovakia with a seven-hour stop Sunday in the Hungarian capital. He is passing through Budapest to celebrate the closing Mass of an international conference on the Eucharist, though he will also meet with Hungarian religious figures as well as Hungary’s president and prime minister.
Organizers expect as many as 75,000 people at the Mass in Heroes’ Square, which is going ahead with few coronavirus restrictions even as Hungary, like the rest of Europe, is battling infections fueled by the highly contagious delta variant.
Despite pleas from the Hungarian Chamber of Doctors, congress organizers decided not to require COVID-19 vaccinations, tests, masks or social distancing for attendance. Organizers, however, said they had ordered 30,000 masks to distribute as well as hand sanitizer, and urged all attending to be prudent.
The Vatican and trip organizers have stressed that Francis was only invited to Hungary to celebrate the Mass — not make a proper state and pastoral visit as he is doing in Slovakia. Francis and Orban disagree on a host of issues, top among them migration, and Francis’ limited stay in Budapest could indicate that he didn’t want to give Orban’s government the political boost of hosting a pope for a longer pilgrimage before the general election next spring.
“At the beginning there were a lot who were angry (that Francis wasn’t staying longer), but now I think they understand,” said the Rev. Kornel Fabry, secretary general of the Eucharist conference.
He noted that a majority of Hungarians back Orban’s migration policies, “that we shouldn’t bring the trouble into Europe but should help out where the trouble is.”
Orban has frequently depicted his government as a defender of Christian civilization in Europe and a bulwark against migration from Muslim-majority countries. Francis has expressed solidarity with migrants and refugees and criticized what he called “national populism” advanced by governments like Hungary’s. He has urged governments to welcome and integrate as many migrants as they can.
About 39% of Hungarians declared themselves to be Roman Catholic in a 2011 census, while 13% declared themselves to be Protestant, either Lutheran or Calvinist, a Protestant branch with which Orban is affiliated.
Still, religious commitment in Hungary lags behind many of its neighbors. According to a 2018 survey by the Pew Research Center, only 14% of Hungarians said religion was an important part of their lives, and 17% said they attend religious services at least monthly.
Despite that, registered churches have been major beneficiaries of state support under Orban since he returned to power in 2010. According to estimates by business website G7, contributions to churches from Hungary’s central budget rose from around $117 million in 2009 to more than $588 million in 2016.
Additionally, around 3,000 places of worship have been …read more
Source:: Headlines News4jax
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