It has been a week since the papal plane touched down on Hungarian soil and brought Pope Francis to Budapest, where he celebrated the closing mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress.
Looking at the Congress coverage, however, many eyes of the mainstream press were fixed on the meeting of “liberal” Pope Francis and “illiberal” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
The result was an unfortunate politicization of a wonderful event that gave hope to hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in the heart of a secularized European continent.
As always, the mainstream anti-Christian media and its promoters have been very creative in finding ways to divert attention away from what really happened during Congress and between the head of the Catholic Church and the head of the Church. a new “European Christian political bloc”. They had several reasons for this manipulation because neither of the two events matched the desired narrative. Let’s see why.
This year was, in fact, the second time that Hungary has hosted a Eucharistic Congress. The first was held on the eve of World War II in 1938. The 34th Eucharistic Congress in Budapest is said to be one of the last public expressions of European Christianity before the start of a very dark era of persecution, repression and of misery. Planners did not know that the memory of those days would provide hope for worshipers suffering from the Nazi occupation or the brutal Soviet Communist oppression afterwards.
Historical figures like Cardinal József Mindszenty, reinforced by the experience of the 1938 Congress, are now part of the common memory of the country. Thus, the organizers of the last Congress, which had to be postponed for a year due to the pandemic, knew that a very serious legacy was at stake. Not only did this Congress represent a huge opportunity to strengthen the faithful, but it was also able to prove that Catholicism not only has a brilliant past, but a hopeful future in Hungary. Those who were fortunate enough to be present at the 9/11 candlelight procession or the papal mass the next day had no doubt that Congress, as one American pilgrim observed, “was thus a statement on the rebirth of Hungary and the persistence of faith. ”
This “renaissance” is vital because, despite the current political rhetoric, religiosity in Hungary is not significantly better than in the West. There are several reasons behind this reality. The first is Hungary’s experience with “Goulash Communism”.
After Hungarian freedom fighters revolted against Communism in 1956, the Hungarian regime changed its tactics. Instead of the harsh oppression it previously used, the “reformed” regime aimed at compromise in exchange for economic benefits.
Due to the relatively wide range of travel and economic opportunities, and the easing of open ideological oppression, Hungary has become the “happiest barracks” in the Soviet bloc. This led to a tragic paradox: in countries like Poland or Romania, where political systems continued to persecute Christianity, resistance increased, while in Hungary apparently more tolerant “Goulash Communism”. weakened resistance to the regime and the political system.
Although the Church experienced a revival after the regime change, the Church did not face the new challenges of the world, due to the 45 years of separation behind the Iron Curtain. More importantly, she didn’t realize that her future was in the cities rather in the old structure of the rural parish system.
This year’s Eucharistic Congress, however, marked a notable milestone in this process of realization as everyone could see that although a large number of participants came from rural areas, the organization and the most dynamic communities (also the youngest) to promote and run the event were urban. .
Pope Francis and Viktor Orbán
Since the Orbán government prides itself on preserving the Christian heritage of Hungary and the West against the madness of rampant progressivism, it would have been incredible if it did not pressure and support such an event. In fact, it would be hard to find a government in Europe that supports Catholic values more than the Hungarian government. Although the policy always approaches civilizational and cultural issues from a different perspective than the Catholic Church, it has managed to find common ground in areas such as strengthening large families by encouraging young people (through sustainable financial means) to have more children, helping persecuted Christians, and keeping the conversation on the Christian roots of Europe alive.
However, due to the Hungarian government’s strong opposition to mass migration, many expected a clash between Orbán and the Latin American pontiff, known for urging Western leaders to open their borders to immigrants.
Much to the disappointment of the press, this clash did not take place. It would take hours to compile a list of those “impartial” articles which at first doubted the papal visit, then the Holy Father would not meet Orbán and finally assured the reader that the Pope would then go and challenge the “thugs. “. ”Like Orban.
The account even went so far as to present the duration of the visit (Pope Francis only visited Hungary for seven hours while he visited Slovakia for three days) as a papal signal to the Hungarian “populists”.
What actually happened during the Congress contrasted these predictions. The meeting between Pope Francis (accompanied by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for State Relations) and Hungarian political leaders, lasted longer than expected in an “atmosphere cordial ”. Later, the two sides revealed that they were mainly talking about ecology and Hungary’s pro-natal politics.
Upon his return to Rome, Pope Francis spoke to the press and expressed his appreciation for Hungary’s family policy and nature conservation while admitting that the topic of migration had nothing to do with it at all. been addressed. He also clarified that the brevity of his visit to Budapest was due only to logistical reasons, dispelling any doubt as to whether it was a political signal.
During the second half of the press conference, he spoke of the EU as “dreamed of by Schuman, Adenauer, De Gasperi” and that certain interests “are trying to use the EU for ideological colonization and what not. is not good ”. These statements, to the chagrin of the press, are very close to the statements of Orbán which so often anger the European political elite.
Possible return of Christianity
If there was any mention of migration, it was through Orbán’s gift to the Pope, a copy of a letter from 1243 from Hungarian King Bela IV to Pope Innocent IV. In this letter, King Bela IV wrote to the Pope that he would strengthen the fortifications along the Danube in Hungary in preparation for a Mongol invasion. Bela IV, a member of the Arpad dynasty that brought Christianity to the Hungarians, does not represent a rebellious counterpoint to the papacy.
Saint Stephen I, the first Christian king of the Arpad dynasty, received the Holy Crown of Hungary from Pope Silvestre II and offered the country to the Virgin Mary, and through this, pledged Hungary to a political and cultural alliance with the West.
Bela’s message to Pope Innocent was of grave brotherly concern (a concern that proved valid when the Mongols reached Germany while ravaging Hungary to extinction). This represents a recognition that Hungary and Rome are from the same world and serve the same purpose, albeit in different positions. After the devastating invasion, it was King Bela who rebuilt the country and obtained the title of “second founder of Hungary”. It is no coincidence that his statue was behind the great altar of the Eucharistic Congress where Pope Francis celebrated Mass.
In these uncertain times, such alliances can offer real protection against the new forms of invasions that Pope Francis has spoken of. The Budapest Eucharistic Congress has not only given hope to Catholics but to all those who want Europe to be what it has always been: a continent defined not only by curiosity, innovation and culture. opening, but also by pilgrimage, procession and prayer.