By Stefan J. Bos
Thousands of youngsters packed Budapest's László Papp Budapest Sports Arena for worship ahead of Pope Francis's visit to Hungary.
It is part of efforts by organizers of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress to include the next generation in the celebration of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
Thousands joined in singing, "Bless the Lord all my soul, on my soul, Worship His Holy name, Sing like never before."
Hungarian President János Áder earlier reflected on the theme of this song. He said, "If you seek God not as a physical reality but in your heart and soul, and through your deeds, you shall find Him."
Quoting from Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato si', Áder said that "we are in a close communion with all creatures on our way towards God's eternal light."
In his testimony, the president also commemorated the over 30,000 Hungarian victims of the coronavirus pandemic. He mentioned especially some 1,000 children who lost both parents to the Covid-19. Due to the pandemic, the International Eucharistic Congress was postponed by a year.
The President of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, said he was impressed that Hungary had managed still organize the gathering.
The cardinal, who came from Myanmar, also asked for prayers for his nation. He said he is thankful that Pope Francis will preside over the closing Mass on Sunday. The cardinal stressed that Pope Francis had been an inspiration to his country, which faced a coup on 1 February that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
"In the last six months, our simple people face multilayer challenges: COVID, a coup, the collapse of the economy, and climate changes. Catholics have suffered a lot. Our churches are being attacked. Many of our people are refugees in their own land in (Internally Displaced People) IDP [camps]," he explained.
However, "Pope Francis has a special love for [our] land. In 2017 to the world's surprise, he chose our country, a country of 700,000 Catholics, for his pilgrimage of peace. So, I am very glad that he is here for the closing ceremony," the cardinal added.
Outside the Congress center, people already gathered in front of Hungary's Parliament building on Saturday evening.
Cardnal Péter Erdő was to celebrate Mass followed by a candlelight procession to the capital's spectacular Heroes' Square.
There, Pope Francis will preside over the closing Mass on Sunday, which is expected to be attended by at least some 100,000 pilgrims and give hope to Hungary and other nations.