Pope Francis pays three-day visit to Hungary
The Head of Catholic Church, Pope Francis got off for a three-day visit to Hungary Friday to meet with nationalist Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, whose perspective is at variance with his own.
The visit would be the second time in less than two years and he will be awaited by Catholics in the country.
According to Agency France-Presse, the 86-year-old Argentine pontiff, whose visit could be dominated by the war in Ukraine, will only stay in the capital Budapest during his trip, due to his fragile health a month after being hospitalised for bronchitis.
The pope departed Rome’s Fiumicino Airport at approximately 8:20 local time, 0620 GMT, and is expected to arrive at 10:00 am, 0800 GMT, in the Hungarian capital, where key roads have been blocked for days as part of a major security operation surrounding the visit.
After being received at the presidential palace by President Katalin Novak — who told local media she was brushing up on her Spanish ahead of the visit — Francis will meet with Orban.
Orban who has been in power since 2010, regularly support anti-migration rhetoric to defend a “Christian Europe”.
This is at odds with the pontiff’s more welcoming stance towards those fleeing poverty or conflict zones.
It was said, however, during an audience last year at the Vatican, Francis hailed Orban — who comes from a Calvinist background — for Hungary’s welcome of Ukrainians fleeing the war across the border.
Five months before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the pope made a seven-hour stopover in Budapest for an international religious event, during which he promised to return to the country where 39 percent of the population is Catholic.
Francis’ first speech of the visit will be made midday Friday, when he will address Hungarian authorities, diplomats and members of civil society.
On Sunday, the pontiff said his visit would be made “as a pilgrim, friend and brother of all”, and government authorities in Hungary stressed that his visit was “not a political event”.
While in Budapest, Francis will as usual be accompanied by his doctor.