Local Opinion: Pope’s Visit Provokes Fierce Political Recriminations

  • 3 May 2023 5:12 AM
  • BudaPost
Local Opinion: Pope’s Visit Provokes Fierce Political Recriminations
The Papal visit has provoked fierce recriminations across the political divide. Each side accuses the other of instrumentalising the presence of the Pontiff for political purposes.

In Magyar Hang, Szabolcs Szerető warns that it would be futile to expect ’redemption’ from Pope Francis, but the truth he represents has a moral impact. As an example, he quotes Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén’s statement that the Papal visit cannot be interpreted in political terms.

Besides, he believes that while the Pope is sincere in his message of peace, the Hungarian government pursues a rhetoric of war in Hungary. What Szerető finds perhaps even more disquieting is that Hungarian society, as he sees it, resigns itself to whatever happens in the country.

In a similar vein, Katalin Lukács writes in Heti Világgazdaság that Pope Francis cannot solve Hungary‘s problems and cannot tell Hungarians what to think of their own government.

The Catholic historian, a former member of the Christian Democratic party who now supports the opposition warns that for such earthly matters, Hungarians don’t need the Pope or anyone else from outside the country.

They are strong enough to do their own job but may draw inspiration from the Pope’s presence and example. ‘If we are ready to faint in front of PM Orbán for 30 pieces of silver,’ Lukácsi writes, ‘then not even Jesus himself can deliver us from ourselves, never mind Pope Francis’.

In Magyar Narancs, opposition leaning theologian Rita Perintfalvi hopes that the Pope’s spiritual message will help Hungary overcome what she sees as its ‘extraordinary moral degradation’. She lambasts those Hungarians who blame Ukraine for the war and want Ukrainians to stop defending themselves.

She describes Hungary as a typical terrain for missionaries where solidarity has vanished from society, for instance towards the migrant masses of recent years. In this context, she lambasts Hungarian church leaders for only selectively hearing the Pope’s messages.

Perintfalvi also accuses the government of trying to use the Papal visit for its own propaganda purposes.

In his Mandiner editorial, Gergely Vágvölgyi criticises those ‘progressives’ within the Catholic Church who try to use Pope Francis’s visit to promote their own agenda. They represent a minority within the church, he remarks, but their voice reverberates in the liberal press and thus they are overrepresented in public debates.

Their goal, he continues, is to change the church’s teachings on the nature of humans and the role of the family. He warns them against using the message of the Pope to justify their own ideals.

In Demokrata, András Bencsik, who is otherwise famous for his highly opinionated editorials, points out that the main message of the Pope is of course one of love, although he admits that different people might interpret it differently.

Our troubles, Bencsik writes, stem from humans themselves, who have placed themselves on God’s throne and created laws that serve their own egotism. Those who see the Christian message of love as their own heritage, however, cling to the hope that love and compassion will mitigate passionate hatred and bring redemptive reconciliation and peace.

Pope Francis Visiting Hungary

Commentators across the political spectrum equally welcome the Pope’s visit to Budapest, although with different emphasis.

In Népszava, Tamás Rónay quotes earlier articles by the left-wing daily to prove that its columnists have always appreciated the positions expressed by Pope Francis including his reforms or his support for migrants or again his struggle against the conservatives of his own church.

By contrast, he writes, right-wing Hungarian commentators have regularly expressed disparaging views about Francis, but since he made his decision to visit Hungary public, they suddenly started eulogizing him. Rónay suggests that those commentators have changed their minds because they interpret the papal visit as a gesture of political support.

In Magyar Nemzet, Levente Sitkei carefully refrains from making political remarks and confines himself to welcoming the Pope and hoping that his visit will help boost social morale. Hungary is still a Christian country, he writes, although the number of churchgoers is decreasing.

Nevertheless, Sitkei continues, there is still a strong sense of community among Hungarians and during his three-day visit, Pope Francis will personally experience the openness of ordinary Hungarians to the message of peace and fraternity that he represents.

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Photos: Summary of Pope's Visit to Hungary – Part 1

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