Pope Francis will celebrate the closing mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in Hungary on September 12, 2021. Contrary to circulating media reports, the pontiff is scheduled to meet President János Áder, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, members of the government, and other high-ranking state leaders at a separate meeting, according to a statement by the Hungarian Catholic Bishops Conference.
In the statement released on Wednesday, the organization responsible for the arrangement of the IEC also called the “false information and misinterpretations” in the media of the Pope’s program in Hungary “regrettable.”
“It’s not true the Holy Father would have excluded anyone from his program,” the statement said.
Just about a week ago, an American catholic paper, the National Catholic Register, published an article claiming that Pope Francis does not want to meet either President János Áder or Prime Minister Viktor Orbán when he visits Budapest in September. Furthermore, the paper wrote that the Holy Father may only stay three hours in Hungary, then spend a possible three and a half days in neighboring Slovakia.
According to the paper, Cardinal Péter Erdő of Esztergom-Budapest, and deputy prime minister, Zsolt Semjén, even visited Rome to ”negotiate a more acceptable itinerary.”
Later, several Polish newspapers claimed the reason for Pope Francis skipping his courtesy visit to the Hungarian prime minister is because he doesn’t like Viktor Orbán’s refugee policy. The Hungarian press also picked up on the news and began to treat the unconfirmed rumors as facts.
Although the government has never commented on the situation surrounding the pontiff’s visit, in the past few days several prominent pro-government publicists have made verbal attacks on the Pope.
András Bencsik, editor-in-chief of Demokrata, recently said that the head of the Catholic Church wanted to humiliate Hungary and behaves in an anti-Christian way, while Fidesz founder and main opinion leader, Zsolt Bayer, said that if the Pope doesn’t want to meet Orbán and Áder, he shouldn’t come to Hungary at all. Today’s issue of the pro-government daily, Magyar Nemzet, also criticized the Holy Father’s ”pro-migration” stance on the front page.
In reaction to this harsh criticism, independent MP Bernadett Szél said that ruling Fidesz deserves a special place in hell for what they are doing to Pope Francis. In a Facebook post, Gergely Karácsony, the opposition mayor of Budapest, also assured the head of the Catholic Church that Hungary’s capital awaits him with respect and love.
Whether the original news was unfounded, or the diplomatic attempts to convince the head of the Catholic Church were successful, we probably won’t know for a long time, but the Vatican is expected to publish the Pope’s schedule in Hungary in a few weeks.
Featured photo by Bertalan Fehér/MTI