Pope Francis mixes messages in visit to conservative Hungary

Pope Francis has returned from touring Hungary, a bastion of European conservatism, where his mixed messaging is seemingly at odds with national sentiment.

At a Mass celebrated Sunday in Budapest, His Holiness called on the Hungarian government — led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and President Katalin Novák, both Christian, neither Catholic — to loosen its stringent border control policies.

Over 50,000 people were present at the Mass, including Orbán and Novák.

The pope said, “We Christians, all of us called by name by the Good Shepherd, are summoned to receive and spread his love, to make his fold inclusive and never to exclude others.”

He called on Hungary to “open the doors” to immigrants and refugees, noting “how sad and painful it is to see closed doors.” Francis has long advocated for immigration policies bordering (no pun intended) on open borders.

It’s a shame Francis doesn’t recognize how the nation’s border policies dovetail with its pro-family policies.

The pontiff’s comments were likely not appreciated by Orbán.

Under the leadership of his Fidesz party, Hungary has developed and enforced strict border-control policies, often garnering criticism from more left-leaning European heads of state.

A report released last month, however, revealed that Hungary’s immigration policies were actually responsible for a more than 20 percent drop in illegal immigration into Europe as a whole.

Despite leftist criticisms, other European nations are following Hungary’s lead, like Italy, under the leadership of conservative Catholic Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and even France, helmed by leftist darling Emmanuel Macron, once a vocal critic of Orbán’s border policies.

Orbán has been one of the driving forces behind protecting his homeland’s borders. In 2021, he explained that his border-control policies are a defense of Hungarian national identity, which he clearly holds dear:

If we invite others from outside Europe that will change the cultural identity of Europe…. There are some countries that accept it but Hungary is not among those countries. We would not like to change the cultural identity of our country so we don’t accept migration as a solution to demographic politics or demographic challenges.

He loudly encourages all Hungarians to hold their national heritage dear, too.

For example, Orbán earlier this year said that his country’s national anthem highlights Hungarians’ “greatest struggles — sometimes peaceful, sometimes warlike — [which] have always been fought so that we can remain who we are, so that we can live as we want to live.”

If the prime minister’s policies are any indication, he also considers the family core to who Hungarians are and how they want to live.

Orbán and Fidesz have worked hard to encourage Hungarians to grow their families, including by exempting mothers under 30 from paying income tax and introducing various government subsidies and tax breaks to support larger families. Continue reading

Additional reading

News category: Analysis and Comment.

Tags: , , , ,