Pope Francis urges Hungarians to embrace those in need and fight anti-Semitism   

Pope Francis urges Hungarians to embrace those in need and fight anti-Semitism   

During his visit to Hungary, Pope Francis has warned of the “lurking” threat of anti-Semitism in Europe. 

He spoke after meeting Hungary’s anti-migrant Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has also been accused of anti-Semitism. 

Orban posted on Facebook that he “asked Pope Francis not to let Christian Hungary perish” during the 40-minute meeting at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest.

Pope Francis spent just seven hours in Budapest before heading to neighbouring Slovakia, where he intends to spend four days. 

The lopsided itinerary suggested Francis wanted to avoid giving Orban a popularity boost from hosting a pope for a state visit ahead of a spring 2022 general election. 

After the meeting, the pontiff told Christian and Jewish leaders of “the threat of anti-Semitism still lurking in Europe and elsewhere”.

Pope Francis said: “This is a fuse that must not be allowed to burn. And the best way to defuse it is to work together, positively and to promote fraternity.”

He asked Hungarians during a mass attended by around 10,000 citizens to preserve their religious roots but not in a defensive manner that closed them off from the outside world and the needs of others.

The 84-year-old Argentinian told the mass on Sunday: “The cross, planted in the ground, not only invites us to be well-rooted, it also raises and extends its arms towards everyone.

“The cross urges us to keep our roots firm, but without defensiveness… My wish is that you be like that: grounded and open, rooted and considerate.”

Orban – the type of populist-nationalist Pope Francis frequently criticises – was seated on the front row. 

Hungary has a sizeable Jewish population of about 100,000.

During their meeting, Orban gave Pope Francis a copy of a 1243 letter from King Béla IV of Hungary to Pope Innocent IV informing the Vatican that the Hungarians would strengthen fortifications along the River Danube in Hungary to defend against a Mongol invasion.

The populist Orban has frequently depicted himself as a defender of Christian civilisation against migrants from Muslim countries. In 2015, he rejected proposals to settle refugees from West Asia and Africa in Hungary and erected a fence on Hungary’s southern border to keep out migrants trying to reach the European Union.

During Orban’s 2017 general election campaign, his Fidesz party’s posters pictured Hungarian-born Jewish financier George Soros, with the words “Let’s not allow Soros to have the last laugh!” Orban ignored criticism and rejected calls from the Jewish community to remove the posters. 

Orban has denied accusations of anti-Semitism saying Soros was simply pro-migrant and hence a political rival. 



Pope Francis. Picture credit: Wikimedia 


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.