During his address at Saint Stephen’s Basilica on Friday afternoon, Pope Francis said: “The many bishops, priests, religious women and men martyred during the Communist persecution testify to the unwavering faith of Hungarians."
The pope commemorated Cardinal József Mindszenty, quoting the late cardinal as saying, “if a million Hungarians are praying, I will have no fear of the future”. “Be welcoming, bear witness to the prophetic message of the Gospel, but above all be women and men of prayer because the future depends on this,” the pope said. He thanked Hungarian priests, monks, and their co-workers “for their faith and faithfulness”. The pontiff made special mention of the Hungarian Sisters of the Society of Jesus, whom he had met in Argentina after they left Hungary during the religious persecution, saying they had been especially kind to him.
The pope said one of the Church’s most important tasks was to interpret changes in the world and seek “to meet pastoral challenges as best we can”. “In this changing world, we want to testify that Christ is our future”. “Our lives, for all their frailty, are held firmly in his hands. If ever we forget this, we, clergy and laity alike, will end up seeking human ways and means to defend ourselves from the world, either withdrawing into our comfortable and tranquil religious oases, or else running after the shifting winds of worldliness. In both cases, our Christianity will lose its vigour, and we will cease to be the salt of the earth,” said the pope. Francis warned, however, that in Hungary, with a solid tradition of faith, “we witness the spread of secularism and its effects, which often threaten the integrity and beauty of the family, expose young people to lifestyles marked by materialism and hedonism, and lead to polarisation regarding new issues and challenges”. The Church, therefore, is faced with the temptation of locking itself up and becoming militant, said the pope, adding that “this reality could also offer an opportunity for discussion and asking questions”.
Christian communities have an obligation for dialogue, an obligation that they should be “capable of responding to questions and challenges without fear or rigidity”, he said.
On arriving at the basilica, the pope was greeted by Cardinal Péter Erdő, the head of the Hungarian Catholic Church, and Bishop András Veres, the leader of the Hungarian Bishops’ Conference. In his address, Veres said Hungary was going through an “extremely big social, political, spiritual, and religious transformation” and the Church was “seeking ways to face the new challenges”. The Hungarian Catholic Church is working to be an active participant in the changes rather than being a passive observer, he said. Among the challenges, Veres mentioned secularisation, hedonism, indifference to biblical values, as well as “difficulties of passing on the faith in the family” and the dwindling number of priests. At the same time, he pointed to “new and welcome expressions of religious life” such as new religious movements, Catholic schools and universities, and “greater presence and involvement of laymen in church life”. Addressing the pope, the bishop said Hungarians would welcome his guidelines “in this way because we want to make a credible testimony in a changing world that our future is in Christ”.