Pope Francis spoke about the nation of historical and religious roots, as well as bridges between peoples, citing his visit to Hungary at the general audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday, where he thanked the authorities, the local Church, and the Hungarian people for their loving welcome.
After his three-day visit to Hungary, Pope Francis stated that he wishes to express his gratitude to everyone who participated in the realization of the trip and accompanied him in prayer. He mentioned the authorities, the local church, and the “brave and rich in memory” of the Hungarian people. He emphasized that during his stay in Budapest, he felt the love of all Hungarians.
The Pope referred to the roots and bridges as the two central symbols of the visitation. He said that he came as a pilgrim to the Hungarian people, whose history, as he quoted the words of Pope John Paul II’s first speech during his 1996 visit to Hungary, was determined by saints and heroes, humble and hardworking people. “Indeed, I have seen many simple and hardworking people who proudly cherish their roots,” said the pontiff.
He believed that the testimonies given at the meetings with members of the Church and young people pointed out that the saints represent the roots above all else: the saints who sacrificed their lives for the people, preached the gospel of love, and gave light in moments of darkness. He added that the saints of the past still help us today in the face of despair and fear of tomorrow, not forgetting that Christ is our future. Pope Francis quoted the motto of his visit to Hungary.
He explained that the solid Christian roots of the Hungarian people were put to the test, and the faith of the Hungarians stood the test of fire. He spoke of the atheist persecutions of the twentieth century, the murdered or deprived bishops, monks, and laymen. “But while they tried to cut down the tree of faith, the roots remained untouched: a hidden but solid church remained, with secretly ordained priests who testified to the gospel while working in factories, and grandmothers who evangelized in secret,” said Pope Francis.
He added that communist oppression was preceded by the tragedy of Nazi deportations of Jews. “In that terrible genocide, many stood out in resistance and in the defense of the victims, and this was possible because the roots of common coexistence were solid. Thus, the bonds of faith and nation helped in the return of freedom,” he emphasized.
Deviation from the original text, Pope Francis stated, “We also have a clever Hungarian poetess in Rome who has experienced these trials and tries to convey to young people how much we need to fight for ideals, so as not to be defeated by persecution.” The pontiff referred to Edith Bruck, a Holocaust survivor living in Rome, whom the pope greeted on her 92nd birthday on Wednesday.
Quoting meetings held with young people at the Papp László Budapest Sports Arena and at the Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Pope Francis stated that Europe is characterized by “the suppression of roots,” in which a consumption frenzy acts as an anesthetic, material possessions reign supreme, people forget the past, and float in an individually-tailored present.
“Entire Europe is in crisis regarding caring for one another, the sense of community, the beauty of common dreams, and the creation of populous families,” he emphasized. He believed that the importance of building bridges of peace between different nations was emphasized in the meetings held with Hungarian authorities. Europe has a mission to be a peace-builder by accepting differences and welcoming those who knock on its doors, he said.
He called the humanitarian bridge that Hungary built for many Ukrainian refugees beautiful. He expressed his admiration for the broad service of love of the Hungarian Church. Pope Francis stated that Hungary shows extraordinary commitment to building “bridges to the future”: he mentioned the care for the environment and sustainable future, as well as the building of bridges between generations, between the elderly and the young, which is an essential challenge for everyone.
He called the meeting held with the Greek Catholic Church a bridge and called the fact that believers from different countries and different Christian communities participated in Sunday Mass in Hungary working well together a “beautiful bridge.” He emphasized that he was touched by how much music, which is part of Hungarian culture, played a significant role during his visit. “There was music everywhere: organ, piano, many instruments, and many songs. Young people with disabilities sang, Long live music!, which means long live harmony, long live brotherhood, which gives hope and joy to life,” said the Pope.