With the war in Ukraine, Pope Francis receives Viktor Orban for the first time


In Budapest they still remember with a shiver in their backs the dry reply of Pope francesco a few days after his first meeting with Viktor Orban. It was last September, Francis would have stayed in Budapest for a few hours just to conclude the International Eucharistic Congress – and this already sounded like a diplomatic message of coldness – and the program of the trip included a meeting with the civil authorities of the country. But to the Spanish Catholic radio reporter Cope, who a few hours before the flight asked him about disagreements with Orban, the Argentine pontiff replied dryly: I don’t know if I’ll meet him too. In a salon I will receive several authorities. I don’t travel with a booklet (with appointments, ed). When I meet someone I look into their eyes and let things go on.

The Pope of Fratelli tutti and the head of the Hungarian government, leader of the European sovereign right that with Jorge Mario Bergoglio has practically nothing in common, they actually met in Budapest. But the distance has not diminished. I was visited, because the President came to me, he had this grace, this kindness, the Pope pointed out, speaking with the journalists on the return flight, he came – this is the third time I meet him – he came with the First Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, there were three. Issues at the center of the interview, ecology, the family, nothing on migration, nothing has been said about it. And, in any case, the President always spoke and both Ministers added some precise data. It was a good climate. And it lasted long enough, I think 35-40 minutes. Courtesy, not friendliness.

The news came from Budapest today that Pope Francis will receive Viktor Orban tomorrow, Thursday 21 April. It is the first official visit abroad after the victory of the elections on April 3, Orban’s spokesman Zoltan Kovacs announced on Twitter, but it is the first time ever that Pope Francis, elected in 2013, receives Orban in the Vatican. . The premier himself tweeted: My first official visit after the elections will lead Pope Francis tomorrow. There is a certain satisfaction from Hungary for tomorrow’s match. The Vatican press office confirmed that the audience will be held at 11.

Officially nothing else. Orban was elected, for the fourth time, last April. And the positions on many issues, from migration to the European Union, the Pope and the Hungarian prime minister have not come close. Orban’s casual use of Christian references, starting with his singular idea of ​​an illiberal Christian democracy, marks an abysmal distance from the Argentine pontiff. However, despite everything, he could now find in Orban, and vice versa, an interlocutor on the drama of the Russian war in Ukraine. The positions do not coincide – Orban criticized the Ukrainian president Volodomir Zelenski in the electoral campaign – nor the objectives, but on some issues harmony is not impossible.

The pope is worried about the risk of a military escalation, Orban won the elections by insisting on Hungary’s unwillingness to be involved in the war. Francis cares about the humanitarian catastrophe, Hungary, like other Eastern European countries, is welcoming refugees fleeing the war. Last March, the pope sent a trusted cardinal to Ukraine, the Jesuit Michael Czerny, who passed through Hungary and met Ukrainian refugees there. It is not enough for a breakthrough in relations, but the contingency of the war seems to have created common ground between the Apostolic Palace and the Sándor Palace in Budapest, sanctioned by tomorrow’s audience.


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