It was revealed at the end of February that Pope Francis would visit Hungary at the end of April. The pope is expected to arrive in the Hungarian capital on 28 April, and will remain in the country until 30 April. As we reported earlier, a spell of sickness cast doubt over the materialising of the visit, but fortunately, although had to be hospitalized, Francis quickly recovered and now appears to be in good health.
The Vatican announced that during his three day visit the pope, among other programmes, will meet Ukrainian refugees. They also emphasised that over half of the Hungarian population is Christian, and about 37 per cent are Catholic.
His Holiness will also meet with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and President of Hungary Katalin Novák.
Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony has welcomed the impending visit of Pope Francis, saying that it was ‘welcome news and an honour’ to be hosting the pontiff in the capital in late April. Karácsony said on Facebook that he has held consultations with Michael Wallace Banach, the apostolic nuncio, regarding the papal visit. ‘Pope Francis’s ideas on humanity, social justice and environmental protection are close to mine as a green city leader…,’ Karácsony said, adding that Francis, in a Papal Encyclical, had laid down ‘a most progressive programme’.
Cardinal Péter Erdő, the head of the Hungarian Catholic Church, noted that the programme of the pontifical visit, including meeting the poor, refugees, the homeless, and sick children, reflects that Francis ‘is in community with those suffering and children with multiple sicknesses are especially close to his heart’. He said the pope visiting Hungary was ‘a sign of appreciation for the Hungarian people’. While Francis has already visited Slovakia and Romania, his upcoming visit ‘will show that he loves these peoples equally’, Erdő said.
Csaba Török, governor of the Esztergom parish and press officer of the Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference announced that one of the main topics of the speech the pope will give is going to be the call for peace in Ukraine. He noted that Pope Francis has been strongly advocating peace and trying to mediate between the warring sides ever since the conflict began. He added that the visit will have a ‘political message,’ remarking at the same time that the moment of rapprochement between the pope and the Patriarch of Moscow would not happen in Budapest. He did not rule out, however, that representatives of the churches of Kyiv and Moscow would be present during Francis’s visit.
He noted that on the occasion of the closing mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest in 2021, Viktor Orbán presented Francis with a copy of the letter Hungarian King Béla IV wrote to Pope Innocent IV in the 13th century. The prime minister’s gesture signalled his intention to establish a relationship with the pope to protect Christianity, he highlighted. The Hungarian government also considers itself an ally of the Vatican when it comes to urging peace in Ukraine, Török said.
Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Relations of Hungary, Zoltán Kovács announced on Tuesday that the preparations for the visit are going according to plan. According to his description, a meeting was held by the operational headquarters responsible for ensuring the safe implementation of the papal visit a week and a half before the arrival of Pope Francis. ‘The preparations are proceeding smoothly, all relevant organisations are prepared for the visit of the Holy Father,’ Zoltán Kovács wrote.
The Official Program of the Apostolic Journey can be accessed at the website set up for the visit. On 28 April, the pope will arrive at the Ferenc Liszt International Airport at 10 a.m. At 11am, a celebratory welcome will be held in front of the Sándor Palace, where he will meet Katalin Novák and Viktor Orbán. At 5 p.m. he will meet with bishops, priests, deacons, members of monastic orders, seminarians, and pastoral workers in St Stephen’s Basilica, and will give a speech. On 29 April, the pope will visit the Blessed László Batthyány-Strattmann Home for the Blind in the morning. Later he will meet less fortunate people and refugees at the Church of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary on Rózsák Square. In the afternoon of that day Pope Francis will meet with young people in the Papp László Budapest Sports Arena, also delivering a speech there. On the morning of April 30 he will celebrate a Holy Mass in Kossuth Square, and in the afternoon, he will meet with university leaders and faculty and give a speech at the Faculty of Information Technology and Bionics of Pázmány Péter Catholic University.