Pope Francis Urges Hungary to ‘Extend its Arms Toward Everyone’

After meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in private September 12, in a speech at an outdoor Mass attended by tens of thousands, Pope Francis urged inclusion.

Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban (Photo by Alexandros Michailidis, Shutterstock.com)
Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban (Photo by Alexandros Michailidis, Shutterstock.com)

“The cross, planted in the ground, not only invites us to be well-rooted, it also raises and extends its arms towards everyone,” the pope said. “The cross urges us to keep our roots firm, but without defensiveness; to draw from the wellsprings, opening ourselves to the thirst of the men and women of our time.”

The pope was in Budapest to close the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress. Catholics are Hungary’s largest religious affiliation, comprising 37.2 percent of the country’s population.

The pope did not directly mention migrants or refugees in his speech at the Mass, which Orban, a Protestant, attended. But the implication was clear in his expressing his wish for Hungary to be “grounded and open, rooted and considerate.” 

Although the pope’s statement was not a direct rebuke of Orban, the Hungarian leader’s immigration policy has been the reverse of what the pontiff urged in his speech. On September 1, Orban made headlines stating today’s migrants are Muslims, and only “the traditional Christian family policy can help us out of that demographic crisis.” On June 11 on Hungarian state radio, Orban said that he wanted to institute that “no immigration whatsoever be allowed for two years.”

Pope Francis met privately with Orban and Hungarian President Janos Ader before he delivered his message at the Mass. The Vatican described the meeting between the pope and Orban as cordial and that the two leaders talked about issues such as the Hungarian church, the environment, and the protection and promotion of the family.

During his visit to Hungary, the pope also met with the nation’s Catholic bishops whom he encouraged to support humane treatment of immigrants and refugees. In another meeting with religious leaders including other Christian denominations and the Jewish community, he warned that the age-old threat of anti-Semitism is “still lurking in Europe and elsewhere” and that “this is a fuse that must not be allowed to burn.”


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