Unlike Boris Johnson, Pope refuses to meet Hungarian Orban, reports show
Boris Johnson having recently leveled intense criticism for welcoming Viktor Orban to Downing Street, reports suggest Pope Francis is now facing pressure due to his seemingly firm desire to avoid the autocratic Hungarian prime minister altogether.
The Catholic leader is due to travel to Budapest in September to celebrate the closing mass of the International Eucharistic Congress – an event that a Roman pontiff had not attended for two decades.
Rarer still is the Pope’s alleged intention to deny Mr. Orban and the Hungarian Catholic President Janos Ader the courtesy of a usual papal visit.
Citing sources in the Vatican and Hungary, the US-based company Catholic National Register reported Thursday that the Pope wanted to stay in the country just three hours before traveling to neighboring Slovakia, where he intends to spend three and a half days.
“The political tensions behind the scenes are due to the fact that the Vatican wants to avoid any political meeting, including the visit to the presidential palace in Budapest which should be part of the package,” said a source in Budapest.
Efforts are said to be underway to convince the Pope to stay in Hungary beyond the morning of September 12 to avoid a diplomatic breakdown, Budapest has reportedly offered the Pope persistent invitations for a state visit.
The first public hint of possible tensions over the trip appeared to have emerged in March, when the 84-year-old Pope told reporters on a return flight from a three-day visit to Iraq that he felt more tired on this trip than on previous ones, and pontificated over whether his intensely busy travel schedule might slow down.
“Now I will have to go to Hungary for the final Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress,” the Pope reportedly said. “Not a visit to the country, but for this mass. But Budapest is a two hour drive from Bratislava: why not visit the Slovaks? I do not know.”
Echo The registerthe report of, Luis Badilla, editor-in-chief of the semi-official Vatican news aggregator There Sismografo, also expressed concern over the apparent confusion in a blog post Thursday, which indicated that the publication of the pontifical program in Hungary was expected on May 26, along with an expected clarification of Pope Francis’ plans for a visit to Slovakia – none of which has yet materialized.
“There is something wrong here, at least from a diplomatic and formalities point of view,” Badilla wrote. “Thinking like that is not the right choice.
“What the Pope does, any Pope, cannot appear or be presented – as some media have done in recent weeks – as a use of his diplomacy to divide, separate and distinguish countries, peoples and the ruling classes. “
Yet with sources in Budapest recounting The register that snubbing the Hungarian leadership and then spending three of the following days in a country with which it has already had a turbulent history would amount to “a gigantic slap in the face”, the newspaper also suggested that Mr Orban’s government may have been among the anonymous targets of public disapproval of Pope Francis in the past.
In his third encyclical, published in October, the pope lamented that the current era “seems to show signs of some regression”, targeting “cases of myopic, extremist, resentful and aggressive nationalism” which he warned they were ” on the rise “.
Such concerns have been widely voiced about Hungary under Mr Orban’s tenure – most notably last week when he was greeted at Downing Street.
No.10 argued the visit was “vital” to Britain’s interests and later said Mr Johnson had expressed “significant concerns” about media freedoms and the rights of the man at their meeting, which came as Hungary prepares to assume the presidency of the Visegrad Group – a 30-year-old alliance founded to promote the European integration of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Since taking office in 2010, Mr. Orban – once a supporter of a so-called “illiberal democracy”, and more recently of a “Christian democracy” – and his allies have decided to bring the media to their knees Hungarian, to assert a firmer grip on the judiciary and to launch various attacks against civil society and the rights of LGBT + people.
And his government has been backed in its fierce anti-refugee rhetoric by some members of the Hungarian Catholic Church – sometimes putting bishops and politicians at radical odds with a pope who has taken a pro-refugee stance.
“Europe can ignore, deny or struggle against its own identity and its Christian roots. But in doing so, society commits suicide, ”said László Kiss-Rigó, Bishop of Szeged. The Guardian in 2019. “And the more migrants there are, the more Christian values will be watered down. “
And in 2016, a founding member of Mr. Orban’s ruling Fidesz party, Zsolt Bayer accused the Pope of being “either a senile old fool or a villain” because of his views on asylum.
However, with elections scheduled for Hungary next year, The register reports that the Hungarian government has sought to allay concerns that a papal visit to Hungary could potentially influence the outcome by also offering visits between the Pope and opposition leaders.
Mr. Ader met the Pope in a private audience at the Vatican on February 14, 2020, the year that marked the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Hungary and the Holy See.
The Hungarian president later told reporters that he had visited the Pope with the intention of inviting him to the International Eucharistic Congress, and said Hungary had not had a papal visit since 1996.