BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Pope Francis began his visit to Hungary on Thursday, warning bluntly of the dangers of rising nationalism in Europe and urging the Budapest government to accept immigrants like the rest of the continent. said it was a true sign of nationalism in Europe. Christianity.
In a scathing address to government leaders, including Prime Minister Victor Orban, who has experienced a series of clashes with the European Union, Francis also urged “a self-referential form of populism” and a rejection of strict nationalist interests.
Calling for a return to the “soul of Europe” envisioned by those who laid the foundations of modern Europe after World War II, Francis said nations needed to “look beyond their borders.”
Speech on the day Kiev pledged an ‘iron fist’ response after Russia attacked Ukraine Large-scale airstrikes for the first time in almost two months, Francis there called for an end to the war, calling for “creative efforts for peace” and drowning out “war soloists”.
The three-day visit will be the 86-year-old pope’s first visit since he was hospitalized with bronchitis in March.
Francis, who injured his knee, was walking with a cane as he greeted dignitaries and children in traditional costumes at the airport. On his most recent arrival he was in a wheelchair.
Asked by reporters about his health on the plane from Rome, the Pope joked, “I’m still alive,” and “A stubborn weed never dies.”
After being forced to stop for just seven hours on the way to Slovakia to close a church conference in Budapest in 2021, Francis is keeping his promise to make an official visit to Hungary.
Orban, 59, and the Pope have differing views on the treatment of immigrants from the Middle East and Africa to Europe, and Francis believes migrants fleeing poverty should be welcomed.
Prime Minister Orban, whose government built a steel fence on its border with Serbia to keep migrants out, refused to allow Hungary to turn into a “nation of immigrants,” as he says other countries in Europe have become. .
He asked Francis during the Pope’s final visit in 2021 not to “destroy Christian Hungary.”
Hungarian founding saint
In a speech at the presidential palace overlooking the Danube, after separate meetings with Presidents Katalin Novak and Orban, Francis quoted St. Stephen, the founder of Christian Hungary in the 11th century.
“Those professing Christians, along with their witnesses to the faith, are called to develop a gospel-inspired humanism and to witness and join forces with all in advancing along two fundamental lines. love one another as fathers and brothers and sisters,” Francis said.
“In this regard, St. Stephen bequeathed an extraordinary word of fraternity when he told his son that those who arrive with different languages and customs ‘adorn the country,'” said Francis, “and treat strangers with mercy.” to welcome and respect them.”
But Francis seemed to take comfort in Orban’s refusal to impose what he called liberal values by outsiders. He condemned all forms of “ideological colonization” on issues such as “abortion rights”.
Later, addressing the bishops, priests and nuns of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Francis urged Hungarians to confront “the rapid pace of social change and the crisis of faith affecting Western culture.”
Orban, who said that Hungary and the Vatican were the only European countries that could be described as “supporting peace”, later wrote on his official Facebook page that the pope’s words were a “confirmation” of Hungary’s desire for peace in Ukraine. “I posted that it was. .
Hungary supports a sovereign Ukraine but still has strong economic ties with Russia. The Orban government has refused to send weapons to Ukraine. The Pope said it was morally permissible to send weapons to Ukraine for self-defense.
Reported by Philip Pullella
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