Pope Francis’s historic visit to Hungary concluded yesterday, with an open-air holy mass held in what President Novák referred to in her social media posts as ’the nation’s square,’ Kossuth Square outside the Hungarian Parliament. Hundreds of thousands were in attendance on a beautiful, sunny day, enthusiastically cheering for the pope.
In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the image of the Good Shepherd, who knows His sheep and calls them by name, and then sends them forth to be witnesses of the Gospel.
‘Jesus came as the Good Shepherd of humanity, to call us and bring us home,’ Pope Francis stressed.
Introducing the image of the door, Pope Francis said that Jesus is the door that brings us ‘into the fold of the Church’ and then ‘leads us back into the world.’ The pontiff then noted that doors are often closed to the lonely, the underprivileged, to foreigners and migrants, and implored the faithful: ‘Please, let us open those doors! Let us try to be, in our words, deeds, and daily activities, like Jesus, an open door that is never shut in anyone’s face, a door that enables everyone to enter and experience the beauty of God’s love.’
The pope also spoke a brief but very important sentence in Hungarian: the words that are also the first in Hungary’s national anthem and in the text of the Constitution, ’God bless the Hungarians!’ The crowd then sang the national anthem.
The day before, on Saturday the pope also met with the head of the Greek Catholic Church in Hungary, Archbishop Kocsis Fülöp and clergy and believers at the Protection of the Mother of God church. The Byzantine rite church is also located in Rózsák Square, as the St Elizabeth Roman Catholic church where he had met with poor people and refugees as we reported. As Vatican News wrote, after a brief greeting with the Archbishop there was a moment of prayer, led by Pope Francis, with the community. The Pope was gifted with a cross and blessed the Greek Catholic community of Hungary.
Later that day, the pope encountered some 12,000 Hungarian young people at the Papp László Budapest Arena. The pope very obviously enjoyed his time with the youth, driving around in the Popemobile before the event officially began to be able to say hello from close up to all those present.
In his remarks, Pope Francis encouraged young people to ‘aim high in life’, reminding them that no one can take their place in the history of the Church and the world.
In a since he spoke them much quoted piece of advice, the Holy Father stated:
‘Jesus doesn’t want us to be lazy “couch potatoes”; he doesn’t want us to be quiet and timid;
instead, he wants us to be alive, active, ready to take charge. Jesus would agree with a proverb of yours, which I hope I pronounce well: Aki mer az nyer (Those who dare, win the prize).’
Pope Francis also urged those present to enter a dialogue with Christ by prayer. ‘Prayer is not boring, it is an encounter with Christ,’ he reminded his young audience.
Most observers and commentators noted that the pope deliberately changed pre-agreed official scenarios during the visit, getting out of his wheelchair or the Popemobile to walk up to people and shake their hands, bless them and even give them small gifts, as he did with the members of a Catholic congregation who staged a flashmob along one of the routes of the Holy Father, forming a live cross, singing and waving to Pope Francis as his motorcade drove by. On his way back from visiting an institute for blind people run by the Catholic Church in Hungary, the pope had his car stopped and walked up to the people to thank them in person.
At the conclusion of the Apostolic Visit, President Novák would not let the pontiff leave Hungary without a special present: as a ’Hungarian housewife,’ she baked Hungarian salty cheese sticks for Pope Francis to taste before his departure.
After his visit, the pope expressed his gratitude and love for the people of Hungary in a moving tweet, in which he again asked God to bless the Hungarians .