Pope Francis to Meet Hungary’s Leaders in City Museum During Brief Visit in September

According to the schedule released Wednesday by the Holy See, the Pope will spend about seven hours in Budapest before heading to Slovakia for a three-day state visit.

The Holy Father will meet Hungary’s leaders privately for a half-hour at Budapest’s Museum of Fine Arts on Sept. 12.
The Holy Father will meet Hungary’s leaders privately for a half-hour at Budapest’s Museum of Fine Arts on Sept. 12. (photo: By Marc Ryckaert (MJJR) - Own work, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will spend just under seven hours on Sept. 12 in Budapest, where he will celebrate the closing Mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress.

According to the official program for the visit published by the Vatican on Wednesday, the Holy Father will also meet with Church leaders and civic leaders.

His brief stay in the Hungarian capital before heading to Slovakia for a three-day state visit will begin with an official welcome at Budapest International Airport at 7:45am. He will then meet Hungary’s leaders privately for a half-hour, though not at the Presidential Palace in the capital, as Hungary’s authorities had hoped, but, rather, at Budapest’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Francis will then take part in two other meetings at the museum — one with the country’s bishops and the other with ecumenical leaders and Hungary’s Jewish communities — and give an address at both.

The Pope is scheduled to celebrate the closing Mass of the Eucharistic Congress in Heroes’ Square next to the museum. 

Today’s announcement follows reports in June that the Pope might not meet President János Áder, a Catholic, and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a Calvinist, and that he planned to spend only three hours in the country. 

Despite Hungary’s pro-life policies, efforts to preserve Christian identity and the creation of a ministry to help persecuted Christians, the Pope has warned against populist and nationalistic approaches that he sees being promoted by Orbán and others, frequently decrying such governments in Europe and elsewhere as comparable to the rise of Adolf Hitler. 

The Pope has criticized the limited migration policy of governments such as Orbán’s, and so the brevity of his visit and seeming reluctance to pay a visit to the country’s leaders had been read by many Hungarians as a diplomatic snub on account of these differences with the ruling government. 

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, played down such concerns earlier this month. Despite the contrasting longer trip to Slovakia, which is led by a leftist government and has historically had difficult relations with Hungary, Archbishop Gallagher said it was “not any judgment on a government or authorities in Hungary.” He also said the Pope only ever had the intention of visiting Budapest to celebrate the closing Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress.



In the program for the Pope’s visit to Slovakia also announced today, the Pope will be given an official welcome at Bratislava Airport in the afternoon of Sept. 12 before addressing ecumenical leaders at the apostolic nunciature. He will also privately meet members of the Society of Jesus there.

On Sept. 13, he will be given a welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Bratislava, followed by a half-hour meeting with Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová, a leftist politician and environmental activist. 

The Pope will address civic leaders and diplomats in the Presidential Palace garden before delivering a speech to bishops, priests and religious at the Cathedral of St. Martin in Bratislava. In the evening, the Pope will first meet the president of the parliament at the apostolic nunciature, followed by Prime Minister Eduard Heger. 

Pope Francis will depart on Sept. 14 for Košice, 250 miles east of Bratislava, where he will celebrate the Byzantine Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, meet the Roma community there, and deliver a message to young people before flying back to Bratislava.

On Sept. 15, the final day of his visit to Slovakia, the Pope will celebrate Mass at the National Shrine in Šaštin, an hour’s drive north from Bratislava. Following a farewell ceremony at 1:30pm, he will depart for Rome, where he is expected to arrive mid-afternoon.