Pope Francis urged Christians and Jews to take a united stand against anti-Semitism in Europe at a meeting with the delegations of the Ecumenical Council of Hungarian Churches (MEOT) and Hungarian Jewish organisations in Budapest on Sunday.
The pontiff is in the Hungarian capital to celebrate the closing mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress.
In his speech, Francis compared the relationship between Christians and Jews to the Chain Bridge linking the Buda and Pest sides of Budapest. He said Jews and Christians no longer wanted to see each other as strangers but as friends.
Photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI
The two communities must fight anti-Semitism together to prevent the “waves of hate” from damaging their relationship, he said.
Only if we become roots of peace and shoots of unity, will we prove credible in the eyes of the world, which look to us with a yearning that can bring hope to blossom. Whenever we were tempted to absorb the other, we were tearing down instead of building up.”
Francis noted that Sunday’s meeting was taking place between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement.
He said people and communities should build bridges while respecting everyone’s religious freedom instead of living in isolation.
In his greeting to the pope, Reformed Church Bishop József Steinbach, who heads the MEOT, said the International Eucharistic Congress was a blessing for Hungary’s Christians.
Steinbach said God’s gift of Jesus Christ to humanity mandated Christians to show love to and look out for each other, respect life and protect God’s creation.
The bishop asked for heavenly strength and blessing on the life and service of Pope Francis.
The MEÖT presented the pope a facsimile of the Vizsoly Bible, the oldest surviving complete Bible translated into Hungarian.
A message from Chief Rabbi of Hungary Róbert Frölich, who was recently hospitalised, was read out by Chief Rabbi Zoltán Radnóti.
In his message, Frölich wrote that despite the conflicts of the past, the common religious heritage and sacred traditions of Judaism and Christianity served as a beacon for the future of humanity.
Jews and Christians both know what it is like to be persecuted for their faith, the chief rabbi wrote, adding that they had also seen many times in the course of history that those who have God’s love and fear in their hearts “see the divine spark in others, respect man and the image of God, and turn to their fellow man with true love”.
Over the past decades, Jews and Christians have done a lot to “break down the walls that separate them” and to see each other as friends, he added.
The Jewish organizations gave Francis a silver Torah pointer.
The MEÖT’s delegation included, among others, Zoltán Balog, the head of the Synod of the Hungarian Reformed Church; Bishop Tamas Fabiny of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary; Bishop Péter Kondor, the deputy head of the MEÖT; János Papp, head of the Hungarian Baptist Church; Albert Pataky, head of the Hungarian Pentecostal Church; Vilmos Fischl, secretary general of the MEÖT; as well as representatives of the Hungarian Methodist, Anglican and Orthodox churches.
Hungary’s Jewish organizations were represented by András Heisler, the head of Jewish federation Mazsihisz; Chief Rabbi Zoltán Radnóti; and Gergő Guba and Gábor Kálmán of the Reform congregations.
Featured photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI