Pope Francis plans to avoid Prime Minister Orbán


Central Europe


Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (C) is welcomed by Archbishop Georg Ganswein (R) as he arrives for a meeting with Pope Francis on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of signing the Treaty of Rome, at the Vatican City, 24 March 2017. photo EPA, Maurizio Brambatti

Pope Francis does not want to meet with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán or President Janos Ader during his visit to Hungary in September on the World Eucharistic Congress.

According to the news website Kafkadesk, the Catholic leader plans to travel to the Hungarian capital of Budapest to celebrate the closing Mass of the Congress. According to the current programme, Pope Francis will travel directly from the airport in Budapest to Heroes’ Square, where the Mass is scheduled. Afterwards, he will immediately leave for Bratislava, the capital of neighbouring Slovakia. The Pope will remain in Slovakia for three days. Slovakia has a difficult history with Hungary.

If the Pope continues with these plans, this would be an insult to Hungarians and “a gigantic slap in the face” of Prime Minister Orbán, say sources to the American National Catholic Register.

“It would be outrageous,” a Church source in Budapest told the Register. “It would be the equivalent of him spending half a day in Israel and then three and a half days in Iran, or half a day in Poland and then travelling to Russia for a few days. Everyone thinks it is unacceptable.”

According to the Hungarian portal 444.hu, many people, including the Hungarian Cardinal Archbishop Peter Erdö and the Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen, are trying to convince Pope Francis to decide otherwise. The two Hungarians travelled to Rome a few days ago to mediate. They aim to change his mind and to make him pay a more extended visit to Hungary than just a simple morning on September 12th, which would include, of course, at least a short visit of courtesy to Orbán and Áder, despite the Pope wanting to avoid it deliberately.

Political differences form the background to this potential diplomatic snub. In the Vatican, Francis’ pontificate has disagreed with both Viktor Orbán’s government and some of Hungary’s bishops over the government’s immigration policy, which contrasts with the Pope’s preferred open-door approach to the issue.

In 2016, a founding member of Orban’s Fidesz party Zsolt Bayer had accused Pope Francis of being “either a senile old fool or a scoundrel” due to his views on immigration and asylum.

Based on the original plan, the Pope’s programme for a visit should have been made public on May 26th, but that did not happen, presumably because of this discussion.



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