Almost a year after Pope Francis ‘ trip to Slovakia and Hungary, the roads of the pope and Budapest cross again with the audience, scheduled for Thursday 25 August, of the new Hungarian president Katalin Novak .
Elected by the Hungarian parliament last March, Novak is a loyalist of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán , as well as vice-president of Fidesz, the majority party, and Minister of Family Affairs for just over a year between 2022 in the government of the current Hungarian leader . After all, the election of Novak came thanks to the totality of the votes of the government in the National Assembly, that is the movement of Orbán and the allies of the Popular Christian Democratic Party. At less than half the challenger Péter Róna stopped , supported by the opposition.
An unprecedented hearing on known topics
It will therefore be the first meeting ever between Pope Francis and President Novak , recognized both in his own country and internationally, especially for his tenacious battle over the birth rate and the defense of the ‘ traditional family ‘ against the one she defines itself as ‘ gender ideology ‘.
Recurring themes in the nationalist narrative of Orbán and Fidesz, who have built their vast consensus in Hungary also on the Christian identity of the country in which, in fact, Novak perfectly recognizes himself. And that, precisely for this reason, they pushed the government majority to vote for the presidency.
Form and substance, however, are not those of Francis. The universalistic spirit of Bergoglio’s Church obliges the latter not to embrace governments, systems of alliances or blocks of states, even if the latter, like those of Visegrád , consider themselves to be the backbone of a newly Christian Europe. Incensing politics, for religion, means legitimizing its extremisms and, consequently, its conflicts.
The openings of the Vatican
A Church that rejects people is not such. Rather, as Pope Francis himself said, it is transformed into a “sect”. This is how Bergoglio answered some questions from James Martin , an American Jesuit who has been involved for years in the pastoral care of homosexual people. A clear message, made even more specific by the pontiff with the clarification that any refusal addressed to a LGBTQ + person must be interpreted not as “the refusal of the Church”, but of “people in the Church”.
Among the latter, although not formally “in the Church”, we would certainly like to include President Novak, who on several occasions, even during the World Congress of Families held in Verona in 2022 , did not spare herself in her narrative with tones distinctly homophobic.
Moreover, Novak herself, in 2022 , supported the so-called ‘ anti-pedophilia legislation ‘ approved by Budapest, defined as “shameful” by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen as it places pornography, change of sex and homosexuality.
Create bridges and not walls – Pope Francis repeatedly asked during his pontificate. And in Hungary, for some years now, the latter seem to prevail, rather than the former.
Immigrants from Ukraine, beyond the emergency
Since 2022 , more than 500 kilometers of physical wall , made of steel and barbed wire, have separated Hungary from Croatia and Serbia , completely sealing the country during the migration crisis that, in that year, was crossing the Balkan route. A decision that, electorally, rewarded Orbán: between the 2022 votes, Fidesz significantly increased the number of preferences.
The anti-immigrant rhetoric, which has a significant specific weight within the system of values and beliefs proposed by Novak and Orbán, has however had to deal with the conflict in Ukraine. The countries, in fact, are neighboring and, since the beginning of the Russian invasion, Hungary has already welcomed over 250,000 Ukrainian refugees .
For the Hungarian commitment, Pope Francis personally thanked Orbán during his visit to the Vatican last April. But the problem of the management and the future of migratory flows remains: the policies implemented by its governments since 2022 have effectively dismantled the country’s reception system, taken over almost exclusively by voluntary associations.
Precisely for this reason, the theme of migrants will be central in the meeting between Novak and Bergoglio . For the pontiff, going beyond the Ukrainian emergency is fundamental. The reception of refugees cannot be a one-off initiative , but a prerequisite for creating a more inclusive society and a “future of peace”, as he said in his message in view of the 108th World Day of Migrants and Refugees.