Pope Francis will visit Hungary in April and meet with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Hungarian President Katalin Novák, members of the diplomatic corps, and representatives of the Church and clergy in Budapest.
During the visit, the pope is also expected to meet representatives of some of the country’s historic religious groups, reports Roman Catholic news portal Katolikus.ma.
During Orbán’s state of the nation speech last week, he stated that Hungary is increasingly isolated within Europe over its pro-peace stance, and the only real ally in Europe supporting Hungary’s position is the Vatican.
“So we were left with two: Hungary and the Vatican. We can’t complain about the company, but there are serious consequences. We have to face honestly that the war is getting wilder and wilder. So we had better be prepared for the tone against us to become increasingly harsh and ruthless. Provocations, insults, threats and blackmail. I can’t promise that it will be easy, but I can promise that we will stand our ground,” said Orbán during the speech.
However, there is no evidence that Pope Francis’ visit to Hungary has anything to do with the war in Ukraine.
Instead, Katolikus.ma reports that the pope’s visit will focus on youth, although the World Youth Summit will be held in Lisbon from Aug. 1 to Aug. 6. The Catholic news portal speculates that this papal visit will also help the Hungarian Church prepare for the World Youth Summit.
The program for the papal visit is not yet finalized, but Pope Francis is expected to celebrate Mass in St. Stephen’s Basilica, as well as visit a Marian shrine and the city of Szeged. His trip may include visits to several cities and towns he has not visited before.
On April 21, 2022, Pope Francis received Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for a private audience; this was his first official visit to the Vatican following the parliamentary elections. At the meeting, the prime minister officially invited Pope Francis to visit Hungary the following year.
Afterward, President of the Republic Katalin Novák had a private audience with the Pope on Aug. 22, 2022, where the official letter of invitation was handed over. According to Hungary’s president, Pope Francis confirmed his intention to visit Hungary, and preparations for the papal visit have now begun.
Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén is in charge of the pope’s visit, which the government has declared a high-priority event. A steering group has already been set up for the occasion, headed by Zoltán Kovács, state secretary for international communications and relations.
Pope Francis was last in Budapest on Sept. 12, 2021, for the closing Holy Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress, but he only spent a few hours in the country, and the Vatican stressed it was not an official visit to Hungary.