Pope Francis has landed in Hungary for a three-day pastoral visit. It is his first full trip to the country since he became Pope 10 years ago.
What kept him away was the tough anti-migrant stance of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in contrast to the 86-year-old pontiff’s compassion for all refugees.
What brings him here now, besides his support for Catholics, is the war in Ukraine.
Hungary and Ukraine share a 134km (85-mile) border.
But unlike other EU leaders, Mr. Orban has refused to back military aid for Kyiv and maintained relations with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
“It will also be a journey to the centre of Europe, over which the icy winds of war continue to blow,” the Pope said ahead of his visit.
The Argentine Pope has been to eastern Europe before – in 2019 to Romania and 2021 to Slovakia. On his way to Slovakia, he stopped to celebrate mass in Budapest, the closing event of the International Eucharistic Congress.
The pontiff promised to return, and careful Hungarian diplomacy in Rome led to this visit, which is being portrayed by pro-government media as a diplomatic triumph for Mr. Orban and even a chance to end its international isolation over the war in Ukraine.
The Pope’s visit ends on Sunday, with the celebration of mass in Kossuth square, in front of the Hungarian parliament. Hundreds of thousands are expected to attend, including Hungarians from neighbouring countries.