Caritas volunteers distribute aid in Budapest's Keleti rail station Caritas volunteers distribute aid in Budapest's Keleti rail station 

Caritas Hungary’s outpouring of aid for Ukrainian refugees

The Hungarian Church’s aid agency is assisting refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, as Cardinal Michael Czerny brings the Pope’s closeness to all he meets.

By Devin Watkins

As Ukrainians flee Russia’s brutal invasion of their homeland in droves, over 140,000 have crossed the southwestern border into Hungary.

Some will surely move on to other European Union nations before requesting asylum, but all of them require some form of humanitarian assistance, including a lift to refugee centers.

The local Catholic Church has thrown out all the stops to help their neighbors from Ukraine, through the network of Caritas Hungary.

Ukraine-Hungary border center

The Hungarian Bishops’ Conference laid out its humanitarian efforts in a statement on Wednesday.

The tiny village of Barabás, with a population of around 850, sits on the border with Ukraine and acts as the frontline for people seeking safety.

The local Caritas base in Barabás has seen a large uptick in arrivals, with around 200-1,000 people visiting each day.

Volunteers pick them up at the border with their personal cars—most refugees have crossed on foot—and bring them to the aid center. There they receive food, drink, and medical care, as well as a place to rest for a while.

Ukrainian refugees queue in Budapest's Keleti station
Ukrainian refugees queue in Budapest's Keleti station

Generous donations

Caritas Hungary has also set up aid centers in various other cities, and collects donations in kind and in cash, which are then distributed to any refugee in need.

Most use cash donations to buy medicines and fuel, and to cover additional logistical needs during their flight from home, according to the Bishops’ statement.

Minibuses owned by various Church-linked institutions have been put to use to ferry people to refugee centers in other parts of Hungary.

Cardinal Czerny speaks with a refugee from Ukraine
Cardinal Czerny speaks with a refugee from Ukraine

Pope’s closeness and Cardinal Czerny

The Caritas organization also has a tent set up at the Keleti railway station in Budapest, where volunteers help feed up to 2,500 refugees each day.

Cardinal Michael Czerny visited the station in ancient Pest on Tuesday to encourage volunteers and bring Pope Francis’ closeness to Ukrainians fleeing war. The Pope had dispatched the interim Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development to Hungary.

The Canadian Cardinal arrived in cassock, red biretta, and a pectoral cross made from the wood of a migrant boat that landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Cardinal Czerny offered words of gratitude and encouragement to everyone he met, and imparted the Pope’s blessing generously upon the multitudes of people fleeing Ukraine.

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09 March 2022, 13:02