The Pontiff honored the martyrs of the persecuted Hungarian Church
"From all of Pope Francis' speeches during his visit to Hungary, it was evident that he pays attention to our concerns and our situation. We received the encouragement we needed from him," said Cardinal Péter Erdő, pointing out that the martyrs of the persecuted Church were specially honored.
Pope Francis, following the 2021 International Eucharistic Congress, decided to return to Hungary for a pastoral visit, which “is intended for us,” and he did not change his decision despite the outbreak of war and the insistence of the global media that the true purpose of the papal visit was a possible political negotiation, all of which proved to be untrue. As Cardinal Erdő Péter noted, he immediately expressed his gratitude to the Holy Father in a letter after the papal visit.
Erdő Péter mentioned that Pope Francis enjoys visiting small nations, and although Hungary is located in the heart of Europe, our history shows that we have always been a borderland between East and West, or even between North and South. This has brought about much suffering but also many lessons and opportunities throughout time, he said, citing the possibility of dialogue.
This was also indicated by the logo of the visit, featuring a river image, which not only separates but also, if we can build bridges, connects communities, he added.
Erdő Péter mentioned the speech of Pope Francis at the Carmelite Monastery, delivered in front of the diplomatic corps, which, despite addressing politicians, was much more pastoral than political. Even though he emphasized European values, he did not speak about specific political actions, causing “some surprise,” he remarked.
According to the Cardinal, considering Hungarian history, Pope Francis was much less strict with priests and bishops during his meetings at St. Stephen’s Basilica than usual. The Pope empathized with the situation of the Hungarian Church, which suffered greatly during the communist era, “he knew” when priests and monks were imprisoned, and although he provided advice to the Hungarian community, he was not as harsh with the clergy as he typically is.
Pope Francis spoke at Heroes’ Square about supporting the vulnerable and welcoming refugees, recalled Erdő Péter, adding that there is a false perception in the world public opinion that Hungarians do not value diversity. However, the Kiev annals mention the conquering Hungarians who traveled with their livestock for weeks: for two weeks, the “white Hungarians” went, followed by two weeks of the “black Hungarians”. This shows that even in Kiev, they were not uniform in color. In the Carpathian Basin, the conquering Hungarians encountered other ethnic groups, and after the Turkish rule, the country had to be resettled. So, far from not appreciating diversity, “we are all different,” as half of the people living in present-day Hungary are descendants of those who settled after the Turkish era, and it is a “cultural miracle” that we have all become Hungarians.
Comparing the recent apostolic visit to the one 33 years ago, Erdő Péter recalled that the year 1991 was in many ways euphoric and full of expectations. The constraints of communism had already ceased, although signs of economic troubles were apparent, society had not yet realized them. In contrast, after many disappointments and becoming disheartened, we awaited the Pope for encouragement and hope, to see the value in our own best initiatives and carry them forward. And we received this encouragement – the cardinal appreciated.
Erdő Péter emphasized the importance of Pope Francis referring to Saint Stephen in his speeches in Hungary. At the closing Mass in Kossuth Square, he once again offered Hungary to the Virgin Mary, as he repeated his offer from last year for Ukraine and Russia. With this, the Holy Father expressed that we greatly need the intercession of the Virgin Mary, he added.
The motto of the papal visit – “Christ is our future” – according to the cardinal, conveys a strong message. The universal Church is also at a crossroads, and it must ask the question of whether being a Christian means merely proclaiming what is popular by considering the demands of the contemporary world or being “disciples of Christ.”