Hungarian Church Leaders Call for Peace in Easter Message

  • 19 Apr 2022 8:06 AM
  • Hungary Matters
Hungarian Church Leaders Call for Peace in Easter Message
Jesus “sacrificing his own life restores peace between the world and its Creator and makes peace an obligation for man”, Cardinal Péter Erdő, the head of the Hungarian Catholic Church, told MTI on Saturday, celebrating Easter. 

The Cardinal said Jesus had greeted his disciples with shalom, the ancient Hebrew greeting, and said “again and again we are obliged to meet the challenge in Christ’s salutation”.

 “We must overcome ourselves, reining in our own passions and wishes,” he added. Erdő highlighted the work of the Catholic Charity helping Ukrainian refugees in Hungary and called special attention to children among them. He said it was important that their schooling should not be interrupted “or else their chances in life could irreversibly diminish”. 

Some 200 teachers in Catholic schools have volunteered to teach Ukrainian children, and several schools in and outside Budapest have now started the classes for children speaking Ukrainian or Russian only, the cardinal said. 

Erdő noted Pope Francis’s recent calls for peace and said “we believe in the strength of prayer… we allow the people we pray for into our hearts.”

The Catholic Church is in an “ecumenical relationship” with both the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox churches; it “has been and will be ready to promote dialogue,” the cardinal said.

Bishop Zoltán Balog, head of the synod of the Hungarian Reformed Church, told MTI that “the suffering we endure or witness will not alienate us from God but bring us closer to Him”.

“Celebrating Easter in the shadow of war provides an opportunity to think about suffering in the light of resurrection.” Balog also said he was “grateful and proud” to see that “Hungarians are helping on both sides of the Hungary-Ukraine border”, adding that the Reformed Charity had mobilised 5,000 volunteers, with church members opening up their homes and accommodating over 6,500 refugees. 

The Reformed Church has also raised “the highest amount in 33 years” in donations to help refugees from Ukraine. 

“Christians must not approve of war… blessed are those that build peace while those waging wars are evil,” Balog said. He said “no alleged or real grievance could legitimise Russia’s aggression” but called for prayers for Russians “because they, too, are suffering so much”.

Bishop Tamás Fabiny, the head of the Hungarian Evangelical Church, told MTI that “each suffering or persecuted individual carries the wounds of Jesus”, adding that support between people “is rooted in recognising Jesus in the other person”. 

He said this year’s Easter had the symbolic meaning that “Jesus would not want us to live behind closed doors and leave those doors closed before people of a different nationality, religion, or thinking”.

Asked what churches could do for peace, the bishop said “pray, speak up, and help those suffering”. He said he was glad to see that people have showed solidarity and were ready to help. 

He said his community donated money and accommodated refugees in their homes at the first call. The Evangelical Church is now in the process of organising tuition in Ukrainian in some of their schools, using bilingual teachers from Transcarpathia, Fabiny said. 

He added that his church was receiving help from Bavaria, the United States, and Norway to provide financial and material aid to the refugees and Hungarian families accommodating them.

Protestant Leaders Celebrate Easter

The leaders of the Hungarian Reformed and Evangelical Lutheran Churches celebrated Easter on Sunday with worship services highlighting the importance of spreading the news of Christ’s resurrection. 

Zoltán Balog, the bishop of the Reformed Church in Hungary, said the story of Easter Morning brought fear and joy together, noting that the women who found the empty tomb of Jesus had felt fear because they knew that what was happening was out of their control.

 “Because man does not like it when he is not in control of his life and if he does not understand what is happening around him,” Balog added.

“What happens is out of our control, but it happens for us, to us and can happen within us,” Balog said. 

On Easter morning man can experience the essence of the fear of God, “the feeling of how small yet how valuable we are”, the bishop said. The joy man feels from the recognition of his insignificance and importance compels him to share his experience of joy with others.

Balog called on members of the congregation to spread the Gospel to as many people as possible because “the more people you share it with the greater the chance that it will reach those who you do not yet love”.

Tamás Fabiny, the head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary, called on believers to spread the message of Christ’s resurrection instead of closing themselves off from the world. Fabiny asked why it was that Jesus’s suffering had shaken so many people, yet after his resurrection, his disciples had gone home “into self-imposed quarantine”. 

“They closed themselves off in fear because of the spread of a virus in the land called fear, a virus called worry, a virus called distrust,” Fabiny said.

 “Aren’t we often still like this?” he said. “We are still shaken by Good Friday … but it is like we don’t know what to do with Easter.” 

“On our way over here we’re still checking our watches, we want to get good seats … but on the way back we no longer have that jubilance about us or that devotion that Jesus would expect of us,” Fabiny said. 

He said believers could spread the news of Jesus’s resurrection to others “because they await this good news”. Fabiny urged believers to be “energetic Peters and Johns instead of tired and stunned apostles”. 

“But the real destination is not the Empty Tomb, but rather … the empty hearts of people so that we can fill the void with the living, resurrected Jesus,” he said.

MTI Photo: István Filep 

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