صدى البلد البلد سبورت قناة صدى البلد صدى البلد جامعات صدى البلد عقارات
Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Pope Francis Meets Anti-immigrant Orban in Lightning Hungary Visit


Sun 12 Sep 2021 | 02:16 PM
Ahmad El-Assasy

Pope Francis arrives in Hungary for an unusually brief visit, underscoring the differences between him and Hungary's nationalist and anti-immigrant Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

On the first day of a brief visit to Budapest, Pope Francis met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose hardline views on migration contrast with those of the pontiff.

On Sunday, the head of the world's 1.3 billion Catholics met with Orban –– who was accompanied by Hungarian President Janos Ader –– behind closed doors in Budapest's grand Fine Arts Museum.

"I asked Pope Francis not to let Christian Hungary perish," Orban wrote on his Facebook page, shaking the pope's hand while standing in front of Hungarian and Vatican flags.

The meeting, which included the Vatican's top two diplomats and a Hungarian cardinal, lasted roughly 40 minutes, according to the Vatican.

Orban has frequently stated that immigration is endangering Hungary's Christian identity.

Orban is a self-proclaimed "defender of Christian Europe" against migration, whereas Pope Francis has called for assistance for the marginalised and those of all faiths escaping violence and poverty.

However, the Pope's attitude, which he considers to be genuinely Christian, has often been met with apprehension among the faithful, particularly among orthodox Catholics.

"We are resuming trips, and this is very important because we can bring our words and greetings to people," Francis said on board a flight to Budapest, referring to Covid-19.

Pilots flew the red-white-green national flag of Hungary and the flag of the Vatican from the windows of the Alitalia jet's cockpit as it taxied down the sun-drenched runway after landing.

Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen, Cardinal Peter Erdo, and Hungarian bishops met Pope Francis at the airport, according to Hungarian state television.

Before getting into a car that would take him to central Budapest, the Pope smiled and waved to children who had lined up to welcome him.

There has been no love lost between Orban supporters in Hungary and the Catholic world's leader in recent years.

Pro-Orban media and politicians have slammed the Pope, labelling him "anti-Christian" for his pro-refugee attitudes and dubbing him the "Soros Pope," a reference to Hungarian-born liberal US billionaire George Soros, a right-wing bete-noire.

According to an AFP correspondent travelling with the Pope, the pope's jet landed just before 7.45 a.m. local time (0545 GMT).

The pontiff's hurried visit to finish the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress has raised eyebrows.

His seven-hour visit to Hungary, which has a population of 9.8 million people, will be followed by a two-day official visit to Slovakia, Hungary's smaller neighbour.

"Pope Francis wants to humiliate Hungary by only staying a few hours," said a pro-Orban television pundit.

The pope, Jorge Bergoglio, was born in Argentina to an Italian emigrant family, and he frequently reminds "old Europe" of its past, which was built on waves of newcomers.

He also criticises "sovereigntists" who turn their backs on refugees with "speeches that mimic those of Hitler in 1934" without actually identifying political leaders.

On the Greek island of Lesbos, the entrance to Europe, in April 2016, the pope declared, "We are all migrants!" while boarding his plane with three Syrian Muslim families whose homes had been attacked.