Concluding his visit to Hungary, Pope Francis called on the country to embrace migrants by “opening doors,” while denouncing the practice of closing doors on those who are different from us.
His remarks came during an open-air mass held in Budapest, attended by up to 100,000 people, including Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
On a bright spring morning, the 86-year-old pontiff concluded his visit to Hungary with a final Mass in Budapest, drawing thousands of attendees who sought his blessings. During the Mass, he encouraged people to combat the “closed doors” of nationalism.
On Sunday, tens of thousands of Hungarians, including President Katalin Novak and Prime Minister Viktor Orban, congregated in downtown Budapest along the banks of the Danube to attend Pope Francis’ final Mass.
According to local organizers cited by the Vatican, around 50,000 individuals attended the event, with over 30,000 gathered at Kossuth Lajos Square, enjoying the warm spring morning.
During his final Mass in Budapest, Pope Francis urged Hungarians to combat the rising tide of nationalism and strive against “the closed door 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.”
Against the stunning backdrop of the Hungarian parliament and the Chain Bridge, the Mass held at Kossuth Lajos Square was a visual highlight of the pontiff’s three-day visit to the country.
It is estimated that 60% of Hungary’s population is Catholic, significantly above the European average. Pope Francis was expected to deliver his final address on European culture at Budapest’s Pazmany Peter Catholic University before returning to Rome.
Pope Francis calls Europe to be united
Pope Francis’ visit to Hungary marked his first foreign trip since being hospitalized last month. While the primary purpose of his visit was to connect with Hungary’s sizable Catholic community, the pontiff also emphasized the importance of building a united Europe during his discussions with the country’s president and prime minister over the weekend.
Pope Francis and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban hold opposing views on immigration policies, gay rights, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Pope has frequently expressed compassion for migrants, while Orban has faced criticism from EU leaders for his tough stance on immigration. During his visit to Hungary, the Pope prayed with Ukrainian refugees and met with a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, who supports Moscow’s invasion.
Despite his sympathy for Ukraine, the Pope has taken a softer approach towards Russia, leaving the door open for dialogue.
On his return flight to Rome, the Pope revealed that the Vatican was involved in a peace mission to end the conflict in Ukraine, and expressed his willingness to do everything necessary to achieve peace.
Orban, who has been known for his anti-immigration stance, had previously erected a barbed-wire fence along Hungary’s borders to prevent the influx of migrants.
Pope Francis implored everyone, especially those in positions of power, to show more openness towards migrants and the poor, denouncing the “selfishness” that led to closed doors. He also offered prayers for the Ukrainian and Russian people, hoping for a peaceful and hopeful future.
During his return flight, Pope Francis disclosed to reporters that the Vatican was engaged in a confidential peace mission aimed at resolving the ongoing war. He assured them that he would divulge more information once it becomes public knowledge.
Additionally, the Pope stated that the Vatican was prepared to assist in repatriating Ukrainian children who had been relocated to Russia as a result of the invasion. Kyiv has accused Russia of committing a war crime, stating that thousands of Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia.
Pope Francis held discussions about the Ukraine conflict with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and a representative from the Russian Orthodox Church during his three-day visit, marking his first major trip to Hungary in a decade.
The BBC’s Nick Thorpe in Budapest explains that the reason for the delay was Mr Orban’s strong anti-migrant stance, which contrasted with the Pope’s compassion towards refugees.
Nonetheless, the war in Ukraine drew the Pope to the country, given the shared border of 134km (85 miles) between Hungary and Ukraine.
Mr Orban, unlike other leaders in the European Union, has refused to provide military aid to Ukraine and maintained cordial relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the visit, Pope Francis carefully engaged with people from various walks of life, including young people, the underprivileged, politicians, and academics.