Pope Francis visits Budapest

Pope Francis visited Budapest on 12 September to close the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress. During his visit, his Holiness also met with ecumenical and inter-faith leaders, including Fr. Frank Hegedüs, the Anglican Chaplain at Saint Margaret's Budapest.  Fr. Frank shares his story of this special event: 

The day the Pope came calling in Budapest dawned bright and sunny, a perfect autumn day; the sort of weather English-speaking people call Indian summer and which the Hungarians for some reason call Old Ladies' summer. The event was extremely well attended with over a 100,000 people on the streets of Pest by some estimates, which I could easily believe.   

Security was tight, and organisation was unfortunately a bit chaotic; but the spirit and high energy of the crowds was palpable. Young and old, Hungarians and visitors, laity and clergy, were all united in a shared sense of excitement and goodwill.

Following a meeting with both the President and Prime Minister of Hungary, the Pope met with our interfaith and ecumenical delegation in a spacious hall of the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts, a suitable venue for such an occasion, I thought, bringing together as does every good museum past and present, peoples and nations, cultures and societies. I noted high above the Pope on a pilaster the Latin motto, ars longa, vita brevis. Life may be short, but what we do to bring people together in beauty and holiness lasts a long time indeed. 

Following greetings from leaders of the Jewish community and the president of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Hungary, Pope Francis spoke eloquently of the famed Chain Bridge (pictured), which spans the Danube at Budapest, as a symbol of our aspirations for unity in faith and purpose. The bridge, he said, does not so much harden the City into one mass as it brings together Pest and Buda into a sense of oneness, allowing each half of the City its own identity and distinctiveness. So it must be among people of religious faith, suggested the Pope. 

He also cited the writings of the tragic young Jewish Hungarian poet, Miklós Rádnoti, a victim of the Holocaust in Hungary in the 1940s. Flowers are important, said the Pope in paraphrasing from Rádnoti’s writings, but so are roots. And sometimes it is important for us to remember and honour our common spiritual roots.

I had the privilege of greeting the Pope personally on behalf of our Saint Margaret's community and shaking his hand. I told him of our prayers and hopes for him and his ministry. He smiled warmly at mention of our Anglican community and tapped me on the arm.  Representing our broader Anglican community at this special event is an honour I shall never forget.

The celebration of mass was the closing event of the International Eucharistic Congress and was held on the expansive Hősök Tere, or Heroes Square, adjacent to the Museum.  By midday, the sun was unusually bright and hot, though white hats and sun umbrellas were thoughtfully provided, turning the vast throngs into a sea of papal white.  The music was a wonderful combination of ancient chant and more contemporary hymnody from a variety of traditions.  


There is coverage of the Papal Visit to Budapest and Slovakia on the Vatican News website.   

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