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Pope Francis concludes visit to Hungary

On the final day of his apostolic visit to Hungary, Sunday, Pope Francis presided over a large outdoor Mass, following which he met representatives of Hungarian academia and culture at the Péter Pázmány Catholic University in Budapest, before departing back to Rome.

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More than 50,000 people gathered in and around the square in front of Budapest’s iconic neo-gothic parliament building, a symbol of the capital on the Danube, to see the Pope on the last day of his visit to the country.

“I really like the Holy Mass and the sermon he gave, and I felt that he meant many parts specifically for us in his speech,” one of the mass attendees said.

In his homily, 86-year-old Francis said that if Hungarians wanted to follow Jesus, they had to shun “the closed doors of our individualism amid a society of growing isolation; the closed doors of our indifference towards the underprivileged and those who suffer; the doors we close towards those who are foreign or unlike us, towards migrants or the poor”.

Francis believes migrants fleeing poverty should be welcomed and integrated into the European society

During the meeting at the university which followed the Mass, Pope Francis made an address, focusing on social issues. He named alienation and anxiety as some of them, pointing out that they are “no longer merely existential crises, but societal problems” due to the “erosion of communal bonds”.

“How many isolated individuals, albeit immersed in social media, are becoming less and less ‘social’ themselves, and often resort, as if in a vicious circle, to the consolations of technology to fill their interior emptiness,” he added later on.

Was the pope critical or supportive of Orbán?

Sunday’s homily was the second time during the visit to Hungary Francis has used a religious context to make his point. On Friday, he quoted what St Stephen, the 11th-century founder of Christian Hungary, had written about welcoming strangers. He also referred to the Gospel, saying that closed doors were painful and contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

This could be understood as a criticism of the policies of the Viktor Orbán government, which has been strongly opposing unchecked immigration into the EU since the Syrian refugee crisis saw the first mass wave of attempted migration into the bloc, with many migrants, only a fraction of whom were actually from Syria, attempting to cross into western and northern Europe via Hungary.

The Pope, who is known for views that many perceive as liberal in comparison with those of his predecessors, has, however, also spoken out against what he called “ideological colonization” on Friday. He criticized attempts to “cancel differences, as in the case of the so-called gender theory, or that would place before the reality of life reductive concepts of freedom, for example by vaunting as progress a senseless ‘right to abortion’, which is always a tragic defeat.”

While detractors of the Orbán administration focused on the liberal messaging, it did not appear to bother the Hungarian Prime Minister too greatly. He instead focused on those words uttered by the Pontiff that fit his narrative.

The Pope prayed to the Madonna to watch over both the Ukrainian and Russian people.

“Instil in the hearts of peoples and their leaders the desire to build peace and to give the younger generations a future of hope, not war, a future full of cradles not tombs, a world of brothers and sisters, not walls,” he said.

Orbán, who has said that Hungary and the Vatican are the only two European states that can be described as “pro-peace”, later posted on his official Facebook page that the pope’s words were a “confirmation” of Hungary’s desire for peace in Ukraine.

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