Pope Francis said on Sunday that Hungary could save its Christian roots while opening up to the destitute, an evident reaction to nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s stand that Muslim migration could destroy its heritage.
Francis was in Hungary for a curiously short stay that underlined contrasts with the anti-immigrant Orban, his political opponents.
Shutting a Church congress with a Mass for a huge number of individuals in central Budapest, Francis used the imagery of a cross to show that something as deeply established as religious belief didn’t reject a welcoming attitude.
“The cross, planted in the ground, not only invites us to be well-rooted, but it also raises and extends its arms towards everyone,” he said in his remarks after the Mass.
“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,” he said at the end of the open-air Mass, which Orban attended with his wife.
“My wish is that you be like that: grounded and open, rooted and considerate,” the Pope said.
Francis has frequently condemned what he sees as a resurgence of nationalist and populist movements, and has called for European unity, and reprimanded nations that attempt to settle the migration emergency with unilateral or isolationist activities.
Orban, on the other hand, told the Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia last week the only migration solution was for the European Union to “give all rights back to the nation-state”.
The Pope has called for transients to be welcomed and integrated to tackle what he has called Europe’s “demographic winter”. Orban said in Slovenia that the present travelers “are all Muslims” and that as it were “the traditional Christian family policy can help us out of that demographic crisis”.
Francis, 84, who spent only around seven hours in Budapest, met Orban and President Janos Ader toward the beginning of his visit.
The Vatican said the meeting which was additionally gone to by the Vatican’s top two diplomats and a Hungarian cardinal, lasted around 40 minutes and was cordial.
“I asked Pope Francis not to let Christian Hungary perish,” Orban said on Facebook. Hungarian news organization MTI said Orban gave Francis a facsimile of a letter that 13th century King Bela IV shipped off Pope Innocent IV asking for help in battling the Tartars.
Later on, Sunday Francis showed up in Slovakia, where he will remain any longer, visiting four cities before getting back to Rome on Wednesday.
The brevity of his Budapest stay has incited representatives and Catholic media to recommend the Pope is offering need to Slovakia, basically reprimanding Hungary.
The Vatican has called the Budapest visit a “spiritual pilgrimage”. Orban’s office has said correlations with the Slovakia leg would be “misleading”.
The outing is the Pope’s first since going through significant surgery in July. Francis told journalists on the plane taking him to Budapest that he was “feeling fine”.