Thousands of mourners gathered in Budapest’s Óbuda cemetery on Friday afternoon to attend the funeral of Árpád Göncz, Hungary’s first democratically elected president.
The ex-president, who held office for two consecutive terms from 1990 to 2000, passed away on 6 October in his ninety-fourth year. Speaking at the funeral ceremony, Imre Mécs, a close friend and former lawmaker for the liberal SZDSZ party and later the Socialists (MSZP), called the late Mr. Göncz the best Hungarian president of all times. Mr. Mécs referred to Göncz as “an advocate of the poor, the oppressed and those deprived of their rights”. Márton Benedek, the late president’s eldest grandson, said that Göncz had worked throughout his life for Hungary’s becoming a Western-style liberal democracy based on freedom, human rights and social justice. Asztrik Várszegi, Archabbot of Pannonhalma, said Göncz had been a man who loved the people, the Hungarian nation and humankind, a man “filled with a strong desire for freedom”.
Mr. Göncz rejected having a state funeral, meaning that politicians – including Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, incumbent President János Áder and a number of others representing governing and opposition parties – were present only as private individuals.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán commemorated Mr. Göncz at Lendava (Lendva), a border town in north-eastern Slovenia, on Friday evening. Speaking to local ethnic Hungarians in the presence of his Slovenian counterpart Miro Cerar, he said “We paid tribute that is due him as the president of all of us, a president of the nation. We thank him for what he has done for the homeland and for us”.
Click here to read prominent South Korean political scientist and Hungary expert Dae Soon Kim’s article in memory of the late President, written exclusively for Hungary Today.
photo: István Huszti/index.hu