By Francesca Merlo
The second event on his short visit to Hungary is a meeting with representatives of the Ecumenical Council of Churches and some Jewish communities. After hearing from representatives of different religious leaders, Pope Francis addressed all the leaders, gathered in Budapest’s Museum of Fine Arts. (Follow the link for an English translation of the full text of the Pope's address.)
"Having you here, side by side," opened the Pope, is a “sign of great unity”. “As I look out at you, my brothers and fellow Christians, I bless your continuing journey towards full communion”, he continued.
Addressing his “dear brothers in the faith of our father Abraham”, Pope Francis expressed “appreciation for your efforts to break down the walls that separated us in the past”. He noted that Jews and Christians alike, “strive to view one another no longer as strangers but as friends, no longer as foes but as brothers and sisters”. This is a change that is blessed by God, said the Pope, “a conversion that makes possible new beginnings, a purification that brings new life”.
The chain bridge
Pope Francis then asked all those present to reflect on “the evocative image of the Chain Bridge connecting the two halves of this city”. He noted that the bridge does not fuse those two parts together, but rather holds them together. “That is how it should be with us too”, said the Pope. He explained that “whenever we were tempted to absorb the other, we were tearing down instead of building up”. This, he noted, has happened often throughout history. “We must be vigilant and pray that it never happens again”, he said, “and commit ourselves to fostering together an education in fraternity, so that the outbursts of hatred that would destroy that fraternity will never prevail”. Thinking of the threat of antisemitism, the Pope stressed, “this is a fuse that must not be allowed to burn”.
The Pope went on to note that the bridge has yet another lesson to teach us. “It is supported by great chains made up of many rings. We are those rings, and each of us is essential to the chain. We can no longer live apart, without making an effort to know one another, prey to suspicion and conflict”, said the Pope, adding “a bridge unites”.
To representatives of the world’s religions
The Pope stressed that in Hungary, “you who represent the majority religions are responsible for promoting the conditions that enable religious freedom to be respected and encouraged for all”. In our world, he continued, “torn by so many conflicts, this is the best possible witness on the part of those who have been graced to know the God of the covenant and of peace”.
The Pope then explained that the Chain Bridge is the oldest in the city, inviting us to think back to the past where we will encounter “suffering and bleak moments, misunderstandings and persecutions but on a deeper level we will find a greater, shared spiritual heritage”. This precious patrimony "can enable us, together, to build a different future. I am moved by the thought of all those friends of God who shone His light on the darkness of this world".
Pope Francis then spoke of Miklós Radnóti, a great Hungarian poet. “Imprisoned in a concentration camp, in the darkest and most depraved chapter of human history, Radnóti continued until his death to write poetry”, said the Pope. His Bor Notebook is the only collection of his poems to survive the Shoah and testifies to "the power of his belief in the warmth of love amid the icy coldness of the camps, illumining the darkness of hatred with the light of faith”.
Roots for fruits
In the solitude and desolation of the concentration camp, as he realized his life was fading away, Radnóti wrote: “I am now myself a root... Once a flower, I have become a root” (Bor Notebook, Root). We too are called to become roots, said the Pope, bringing his discourse to an end. We usually look for fruits, he noted, for “results or affirmation”.
“If we are rooted in listening to the Most High and to others, we will help our contemporaries to accept and love one another”, said the Pope. Finally, he added that “only if we become roots of peace and shoots of unity, will we prove credible in the eyes of the world, which look to us with a yearning that can bring hope to blossom”.