With Orban in Crowd, Pope Urges Hungary to Open Its Doors

In his closest trip to Ukraine, Francis calls for an end to the war
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 30, 2023 11:07 AM CDT
With Orban in Crowd, Pope Urges Hungary to Open Its Doors
Pope Francis arrives for a mass in Kossuth Lajos' Square in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, April 30, 2023.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis urged Hungarians to open their doors to others on Sunday, as he wrapped up a weekend visit with a plea for Europe to welcome migrants and the poor and for an end to Russia's war in Ukraine. Francis issued the appeal from the banks of the Danube as he celebrated Mass on Budapest's Kossuth Lajos Square, with the Hungarian Parliament and Budapest's famed Chain Bridge as a backdrop. Francis' three-day visit has been dominated by the Vatican's concern for the plight of migrants and the war in neighboring Ukraine, the AP reports. Among the more than 30,000 people attending Mass in the square were President Katalin Novak and the right-wing populist prime minister, Viktor Orban, whose lukewarm support for Ukraine has rankled fellow European Union members.

Francis has expressed appreciation for Hungary's recent welcome of Ukrainian refugees. But he has challenged Orban's hard-line anti-immigration policies, which in 2015-16 included building a razor wire fence on the border with Serbia to keep people out. Upon arrival, Francis urged Hungary and Europe as a whole to welcome those fleeing war, poverty, and climate change, calling for safe and legal migration corridors. "How sad and painful it is to see closed doors," Francis said in his homily on the Danube. "The closed doors of our selfishness with regard to others; 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."

"Please, let us open those doors!" he said. In a final prayer at the end of the Mass, Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine and "a future of hope, not war; a future full of cradles, not tombs; a world of brothers and sisters, not walls." Francis' visit to Hungary brought him as close as he’s been to the Ukrainian front but also to the heart of Europe, where Orban's avowedly right-wing Christian government has cast itself as a bulwark against a secularizing Western world. Francis, though, has used the visit to call for the continent to find again its spirit of unity and purpose, referencing Budapest's bridges across the Danube as symbols of unity and connection. "Be open and inclusive," the pope added in his homily, per Politico, "then, and in this way, help Hungary to grow in fraternity, which is the path of peace."

(More Pope Francis stories.)

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