Budapest: Pope Francis during his visit to Budapest called Friday for recovery of the European spirit and rejection of “adolescent belligerence” amid rising nationalism and war in Ukraine.
The pontiff arrived in Hungary on Friday for a three-day visit, which kicked off with a meeting with nationalist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose views often clash with his own.
The 86-year-old Argentine will only stay in the capital Budapest during his trip due to his fragile health, a month after being hospitalised for bronchitis.
“It is vital, then, to recover the European spirit,” the pope said during a speech, attended by Orban together with other dignitaries, diplomats and members of civil society, as he warned against a “kind of adolescent belligerence”.
The pope arrived just before 10:00 am (0800 GMT) in the Hungarian capital, where key roads have been blocked for days as part of a major security operation surrounding the visit.
After being received at the presidential palace by President Katalin Novak, Francis met Orban.
Live footage of the visit showed the two men greeting each other with a handshake.
“Without Christianity, Hungary would not exist today… Hungary has a future if it stays on the Christian path, and the Christian path is the path of peace today,” Orban said at the meeting according to the national news agency MTI.
On the war in Ukraine, both men have called for peace talks, with Orban an exception in the EU in insisting on maintaining ties with Moscow.
But their views differ on migration.
In power since 2010, the Hungarian premier regularly espouses anti-migration rhetoric to defend a “Christian Europe”.
This is at odds with the pontiff’s more welcoming stance towards those fleeing poverty or conflict zones.
In his speech, the pope emphasised “the need for openness towards others”, warning against “withdrawing into oneself”.