Inside look at Pope's second day in Hungary

Our correspondent in Budapest, Deborah Castellano Lubov, takes a look at the second day of Pope Francis' Apostolic Journey to Hungary.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov - Budapest

Jesus believes in you, wants you to speak with Him in prayer, visit His home, at Church, and wants you to feel reaffirmed in your identity as a young Catholic person.

Offering this encouragement at the Papp László Budapest Sportaréna, the Holy Father urged the young Hungarians present to stay close to God, reminding them that closeness to Christ will enable them to face whatever challenges come their way and that Jesus will always forgive them. 

Pope Francis among the young people
Pope Francis among the young people

He pointed out how Jesus forgave and tried to correct his disciples, who were far from perfect when they fell, and that the Gospels do not speak of extraordinary people, but of people, like us, with limitations. He also urged them to be peacemakers, as the war in Ukraine continues to cause immense suffering "next door".

Some 12,000 young people were overjoyed to welcome the Holy Father with the familiar WYD song 'Jesus Christ, you are my life,' as he circled the arena in his vehicle, and they ran from their seats to the aisles to get closer.

With enthusiasm and excitement, the young people told me how the Pope’s visit is something they will never forget. An organizer pointed to how much they appreciate and value the Pope's clear voice in guiding them.

'A little like Christmas'

The Holy Father's first event of the day was a moving private encounter with the blind and disabled children being cared for at the Church-run Blessed László Batthyány-Strattmann Institute. I went to the Institute and spoke to the former director who organized the Pope's visit today, Inotay György, who told me that the Pope's arrival for the children is "a little like Christmas."

Pope Francis at Blessed Laszlo Batthyany-Strattman Institute
Pope Francis at Blessed Laszlo Batthyany-Strattman Institute

He said that faith and prayer shape the life of the Institute.

Pope Francis decided to go there personally to show his solidarity and bring tenderness towards these children. The institute is named after the much-loved Hungarian blessed, a doctor who did so much for the suffering, and who – before dying from cancer – still praised God joyfully.

After that visit, Pope Francis travelled to St. Elizabeth Church where he told the refugees and poor people gathered there of God's great love for them. After listening to some of their moving testimonies, he expressed his closeness to those brothers and sisters who are suffering and perhaps are also on the move, including a Ukrainian family, and reminded the Church to create a space of encounter and to speak the "language of charity."

As for all papal events, the squares and the streets filled with people; the balconies overlooking the chosen venues brimmed with people who waited for hours to catch even a glimpse of the Pope,  and who stayed, well after he had left.

I was able to speak to some of those refugees, and people involved in the charitable organizations that assist those in need. They all told me how much the Pope's presence meant to each of them. There were Ukrainians, of course, but also people from other continents.

Over two million Ukrainian nationals have passed through Ukrainian territory since the start of the war. Some 35,000 have obtained temporary protection status.

Local Church authorities illustrated their humanitarian aid efforts for these people, as they received refugees both at the border and in Budapest. They included the national Caritas and the diocesan Caritas offices, the charity groups of individual parishes, and the Hungarian branch of the Knights of Malta. 

The Pope thanked the Church in Hungary for its concrete solidarity and Christian love for these brothers and sisters in need. He then crossed the street for a beautiful, and brief, but very reverent encounter with the Greek Catholic Community.

Pope Francis meeting poor people and refugees
Pope Francis meeting poor people and refugees

After his morning appointments, Pope Francis held a “cordial” meeting at the Apostolic Nunciature with the Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Archbishop of Budapest and Hungary, who previously served as the head of the Department of External Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow.

After the final papal event of the day with the young people, the Jesuit Pope met privately with his Jesuit confreres at the Apostolic nunciature, where he is residing during his time in Budapest.

Among the thousands of faithful encountered lining the streets to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis, American tourist, Susan Gibbs, (who is not Catholic), told me of how she changed her plans to see him when she learned he was here:

Listen to her account:

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29 April 2023, 21:08