Pope Francis addresses members of the Diplomatic Corps and Civil Society in Hungary and reminds them that their country and capital have a history of pain, of beauty and a of a welcome which reflects the teachings of Christ.
By Francesca Merlo
Pope Francis’ first public meeting in Hungary on his 41st Apostolic Journey abroad was with the country’s Authorities, Civil Society and members of the Diplomatic Corps.
Addressing the participants in Budapest’s former Carmelite Monastery, the Holy Father shared three thoughts with them, regarding the capital, Budapest: it is a city of history, a city of bridges and a city of saints.
A city of history
The Holy Father began by speaking of Budapest as a city of history. Despite its ancient origins – Celtic and Roman -, the Holy Father said, “its splendour is linked to the modern period”. The Pope also noted that though the city was born in peacetime, “it has also experienced brutal conflicts: from ages past, to the most recent brutalities of the Second World War.
“This year you are solemnly commemorating the founding of Budapest 150 years ago, in 1873, through the union of the three cities, Buda and Óbuda to the west of the Danube and Pest on the opposite bank”, said the Pope. He noted that the birth of this great capital in the heart of the continent invites us to reflect on the process of unification undertaken by Europe, in which Hungary plays a vital role. “In the post-war period, Europe, together with the United Nations, embodied the noble hope that, by working together for a closer bond between nations, further conflicts could be avoided”, said the Pope.
At this historical juncture in which the soloists of war have taken over the choir of peace, the Pope noted that Europe is crucial, “for thanks to its history, it represents the memory of humanity”. It is vital, then, the Pope continued, “to recover the European spirit: the excitement and vision of its founders, who were statesman able to look beyond their own times, beyond national boundaries and immediate needs, and to generate forms of diplomacy capable of pursuing unity, not aggravating divisions”.
City of bridges
Pope Francis then went on to speak of Budapest as the city of bridges. Speaking of the 20 districts connected by bridges across the Danube, the Holy Father said that Europe, too, was built to create bridges between nations. This, the Pope continued, “requires the contribution of all, while not diminishing the uniqueness of each”.
The Pope stressed “how much better it would be to build a Europe centred on the human person and on its peoples, with effective policies that are pursued attentively in this country, a Europe whose different nations would form a single family that protects the growth and uniqueness of each of its members” rather than focusing ideological colonisation and supranationalism.
The bridges, that bring together so many different realities, portray a strong element of ecuminism, the Pope continued. “Here, different confessions live together without friction, cooperating respectfully and constructively”.
City of saints
Speaking, finally, of Budapest as a city of Saints, Pope Francis turned to the figure of St Stephen: the first King of Hungary, “who lived at a time when Europe’s Christians were in full communion”. The Holy Father noted that “St Stephen displays an authentically Christian spirit when he declares that ‘the practice of love leads to supreme happiness’.”
The Holy Father noted that this affirmation not only demonstrates clear identity, but also expresses “the need for openness towards others”, adding that “the Constitution recognises this in stating: ‘We respect the freedom and culture of other peoples, and shall strive to cooperate with every nation of the world’. It likewise”, the Pope continues, “states that ‘the nationalities living with us form part of the Hungarian political community and are constituent parts of the State’, and commits itself to ‘promoting and safeguarding… the languages and cultures of nationalities living in Hungary’. ”
The Holy Father then went on to stress that “those who profess themselves Christian, in the company of the witnesses of faith, are called to bear witness to and to join forces with everyone in cultivating a humanism inspired by the Gospel and moving along two fundamental tracks: acknowledging ourselves to be beloved children of the Father and loving one another as brothers and sisters”.
In this regard, the Pope continued, “Saint Stephen bequeathed to his son extraordinary words of fraternity when he told him that those who arrive with different languages and customs ‘adorn the country'”. Similarly, “we think of Christ present in so many of our brothers and sisters who flee in desperation from conflicts, poverty and climate change”.
This challenge, the Pope stressed, “especially calls for a response on the part of those who are followers of Jesus and wish to imitate the example of the witnesses of the Gospel”.
Bringing his discourse to a close, Pope Francis stressed that “together, with so many righteous persons of various creeds”, all the great confessors of the faith of Pannonia Sacra “are fathers and mothers of your country”, and he added, “to them I desire to entrust the future of this nation, so dear to my heart.” Isten, áldd meg a magyart” [God bless the people of Hungary!], the Pope concluded.
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