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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Pope to meet Hungary’s populist leader Orban


Pope Francis is set to meet Hungary’s populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a short stop in the capital Budapest.

The meeting is expected to highlight the differences between the Pope’s views and Mr. Orban’s nationalist and anti-immigrant policies.

The Pope will then travel to Slovakia for three days, where he will meet with members of the Jewish and Roma communities.

It will be his first international trip since undergoing surgery earlier this year.

The Pope has previously criticised political leaders who tried to erect barriers to keep migrants out, and in 2019 donated money to help migrants in Mexico seeking to reach the US border.

In Budapest the Pope will also take Mass as part of a week-long Catholic event in the city.

Tens of thousands of Christians from around the world have gathered in Budapest this week for the Eucharistic Congress, and the presence of Pope Francis in Heroes Square will be the highlight of their gathering.

His meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Orban is a little more contentious.

While the Pope has emphasised the importance of welcoming and caring for refugees fleeing war and violence, regardless of faith, Hungary’s prime minister is a staunch supporter of keeping those he refers to as “illegal migrants,” particularly Muslims, out of Europe.

Mr. Orban’s Fidesz government also advocates for persecuted Christians around the world, which is an issue where the two men may find more common ground.

Meanwhile, his visit to Slovakia aims to improve Catholic-Jewish relations. In Rybne Square, a traditionally Jewish area of the capital Bratislava, he will meet members of the Jewish community, including Holocaust survivors.

Tens of thousands of Jews were deported from Slovakia to concentration camps during WWII on the orders of a Nazi puppet regime led by a Catholic priest.

Since becoming Pope in 2013, Francis has visited dozens of countries, though his travels have recently been hampered by the spread of coronavirus.

He made a historic four-day trip to Iraq earlier this year, the first by a pope, during which he visited areas once held by Islamic State (IS) militants.

The 84-year-old was admitted to the hospital in July for treatment of a colon problem.

He also has a number of other health issues. He lost a portion of his right lung when he was 21 years old, and he also has a hip problem and sciatica, which causes pain to radiate from the lower back to the legs.

He had to cancel a number of engagements in 2014 due to a reported stomach ailment.

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