The Christian world was always divided. But the arrival of Francisco to the chair of Peter in 2013 further underlined the gap between a certain way of understanding the message of Jesus, more welcoming and open, and another of a more exclusive and closed nature. The separation between these two worlds, increasingly evident in recent years, has been staged above all through certain politicians. Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian Prime Minister, declared Calvinist and with whom the Pontiff met this Sunday morning, is one of the clearest examples of that confrontation. “I have asked the Pope not to let Christian Hungary perish,” the Hungarian leader posted on his Facebook account as soon as the 40-minute meeting with Francis was over.
The disagreements are fundamentally based on the immigration issue, the persecution of LGTBI groups and the idea of opening up Europe. Francisco has made the need to welcome refugees one of the main flags of his pontificate, while Orbán, despite basing his policy and the breadth of his electorate on Christian ideas, has based his work on the opposite. Sitting next to his wife, a Catholic, in the front row of the Angelus prayer, he had to listen to how the Pope refuted that idea. The Pontiff asked that Christianity, “the lifeblood of this nation”, “lift and extend its arms to all; that it maintains the roots, but without closing itself; that they resort to sources, but opening themselves to the thirsty of our time ”. An obvious allusion to the migratory phenomenon and the need to give it an answer that welcomes.
Francisco has repeated over the years that walls and borders end up locking those who build them inside. A very clear reference to the wall that Donald Trump wanted to build on the border with Mexico, but also to the barbed-wire fence that Orbán ordered to build during the most intense days of Syrian refugee arrivals in Europe. The Pontiff’s opposition has extended to the far-right policies of the Matteo Salvini League on immigration matters in Italy. And before the country’s bishops, he recalled that “Hungary is a place where people from other peoples have lived together for a long time.” “Various ethnic groups, minorities, religious confessions and migrants have also transformed this country into a multicultural environment,” he recalled.
The Hungarian leader, however, is still a crucial actor for many of the European Union’s integration policies to go in the right direction. Francisco, partly because of that, met with Orbán, and the country’s president, Janos Ader, for 40 minutes behind closed doors and without cameras. The meeting lasted longer than expected, since a half-hour colloquium was expected in which the Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin and the foreign minister Vatican, Richard Gallagher. In his own way, Orbán expressed his ideas and chose to give the Pope a copy of the letter that the Hungarian King Béla IV wrote to Pope Innocent IV, in which he asked the West for help against the violent Tatars who threatened Christian Hungary.
The Vatican explained in a statement that the topics discussed included “the role of the Church in the country, the commitment to safeguard the environment, defense and promotion of the family.” Nothing more. No topic that could bother you. The Holy See itself had been in charge of underlining before the meeting that it was not a state visit, but a spiritual and religious one. In this way, activating the channel of Hungarian diplomatic protocol was avoided and the possibility that the visit would be exploited by the Orbán Executive, very interested in showing its Christian electorate the proximity to the highest authority of the Catholic Church, was avoided.
Francis insisted, in his own way, on that distance that separates his way of seeing Christianity from that of Orbán, when delivering another of his morning speeches, with the Ecumenical Council of Churches and some Jewish communities in Hungary. “The God of the covenant asks us not to give in to the logic of isolation and vested interests. He does not want alliances with someone to the detriment of others, but people and communities that are bridges of communion with everyone ”.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.