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Pope warns, in Hungary, of growing nationalism in Europe, and advocates acceptance of immigrants

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Pope Francis, at the start of a trip to Hungary on Friday, warned sharply of the dangers of rising nationalism in Europe and told the Budapest government that accepting migrants with the rest of the continent would be a real sign of that. Christianity.

In a strongly worded speech to government leaders including Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has had a series of skirmishes with the European Union, Francis also urged a rejection of “self-referential forms of populism” and rigid nationalist interests.

Francis called for a return to the “European spirit” envisioned by those who laid the foundation for modern Europe after World War II, saying that nations should “look beyond national borders”.

Speaking on the day Kiev pledged an “iron fist” response after Russia struck Ukraine with its first large-scale airstrikes in nearly two months, Francis made another plea for an end to the war there, calling for “creative efforts for peace” to “sink” Soloists of War”.

The three-day visit is the first for the 86-year-old pope since he was hospitalized with bronchitis in March.

Seemingly elated, Francis, who suffers from a knee ailment, used a walking stick by greeting dignitaries and children in national dress at the airport. In newcomers, use a wheelchair.

Asked by reporters about his health on the flight from Rome, the pope joked, “I’m still alive” and “stubborn herbs never die.”

Francis delivers on his promise of an official visit to Hungary after stopping just seven hours to close a church conference in Budapest in 2021 on his way to Slovakia, leaving many offended.

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Orban, 59, and the pope have different views on dealing with migration from the Middle East and Africa to Europe, as Francis believes migrants fleeing poverty should be welcomed.

Orban, whose government built a steel fence on the border with Serbia to keep migrants out, refused to allow Hungary to be turned into a “migrant country” as others in Europe say.

“Not to allow Christian Hungary to perish,” Francis asked in 2021, during the Pope’s recent visit.

Hungarian founding saint

In his speech at the presidential palace overlooking the Danube, after separate private meetings with President Catalin Novak and Orbán, Francis quoted Saint Stephen, the 11th-century founder of Christian Hungary.

“Those who profess themselves to be Christians, in the company of witnesses of the faith, are called to bear witness to all and to cooperate with all in developing humanism inspired by the Gospel and advancing two fundamental paths: recognizing ourselves as beloved children of the Father and loving one another as brothers and sisters,” said Francis.

“On this matter, Saint Stephen left his son extraordinary fraternal words when he told him that those who pray in different languages ​​and customs decorate the country,” Francis said, quoting the saint’s order. to their discretion.

But Francis appears to be comforting Orban’s refusal to impose what he says are liberal values ​​on outsiders. Francis denounced any form of “ideological colonialism” on issues such as “so-called gender theory” or “the right to abortion”.

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Later, in an address to bishops, priests and nuns at St. Stephen’s Basilica, Francis urged Hungarians to confront the “rapid pace of social change and crisis of faith affecting our Western culture”.

Orbán, who said that Hungary and the Vatican were the only two European countries that could be described as “supporters of peace”, later posted on his official Facebook page that the Pope’s words were an “affirmation” of Hungary’s desire for peace in Ukraine. .

Hungary supports a sovereign Ukraine but still has strong economic ties with Russia. Orban’s government refused to send weapons to Ukraine. The Pope said that sending weapons to Ukraine for self-defense is morally permissible.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella)

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