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13 Sep, 2021 17:42

Like so many, the Pope misunderstands Orban, who is trying to preserve Hungary’s Christian traditions

Like so many, the Pope misunderstands Orban, who is trying to preserve Hungary’s Christian traditions

Concerns over anti-Semitism and immigration were on the agenda as Pope Francis made a seven-hour visit to Hungary portrayed as frosty by liberal media. But he should be more worried about the decline of Christianity in the West.

During a 40-minute meeting with Viktor Orban, the much-maligned Hungarian prime minister, the Pope was presented with a 13th century letter from Hungarian King Bela IV to Pope Innocent IV, which asked the then-pontiff for help in resisting the Mongol invasion of Hungary and Europe. Of course, this was perceived by media outlets, such as CNN, as having anti-immigrant undertones.

Although the issue of Hungary’s hard-line stance on immigration was not broached during the meeting, the Pope later told a crowd in Budapest to “open your arms to everyone,” which was seen as a veiled slight at Hungary’s determination to not see a repeat of 2015’s refugee fiasco. Indeed, Orban later wrote on Facebook that he had asked Pope Francis “not to let Christian Hungary perish.”

Following his meeting with Orban, the Pope addressed Christian and Jewish leaders and warned that “the threat of anti-Semitism [is] still lurking in Europe and elsewhere” and that “this is a fuse that must not be allowed to burn.” I wholeheartedly agree with the Pope that an undercurrent of foul anti-Semitism still exists, but I am not sure why he chose Hungary to make such a statement.

The liberal media lapped up these comments and interpreted the Pope’s words to be a direct criticism of Orban and his government, but does this really ring true? Orban’s government, for example, has always been steadfastly pro-Israel, and he has a close relationship with former Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who once said Orban was “true friend of Israel.”

Orban also argues that his government has also done a lot for Hungary’s 100,000 Jews, including funding the rebuilding of synagogues and cultural programmes. Moreover, he once stated, whilst visiting Jerusalem, that Hungary has a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to anti-Semitism.

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I can only presume that Pope Francis was referring to Orban’s campaign against the Jewish financier and political activist, George Soros, when labouring on this point. Yet I would argue that Orban’s objection to Soros is not on the basis of race, but rather his politics.

Indeed, Soros stands for everything Orban opposes: He wants to see open borders and Western liberal values permeate across the world. He funds numerous organisations, including Open Society Foundations and one to stop Brexit, to achieve these goals.

Orban also claims that whilst anti-Semitism is decreasing in Central Europe, it is on the rise in the West. Just a cursory look at the rise of anti-Semitic attacks in the UK proves that the West has certainly not eradicated this problem. Indeed, it was not so long ago when the leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, was accused of failing to effectively tackle anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

It is with the greatest respect that I say that His Holiness should not be focusing his criticism on Hungary, but instead Western countries where the teachings of the Church are being challenged by liberal ideals.

Indeed, over half of Hungarians describe themselves as Christian, with 37% being Catholic. Compare this to the UK where Christianity has sharply declined over the past 40 years. Might I suggest that the pontiff addresses the collapse of Christianity in the West before taking issue with the East.   

Now, I am Catholic, and one of the highlights of my time as an MEP was when Pope Francis came to address the European Parliament in Strasbourg. I was not only starstruck being in the presence of His Holiness but rejoiced when he said the EU was engendering “distrust of citizens towards institutions considered to be aloof” and “engaging in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual people.” He was certainly right then, but I am afraid he is wrong when it comes to Hungary.

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Indeed, Hungary should not be the focus of the Catholic Church’s ire, but rather a resolute ally in preserving the faith. Because whether you like Orban or not, it is clear that he is determined to promote, as he sees it, Christian values and protect his nation’s Christian heritage.

In normal times, this would be applauded by the Catholic Church, but unfortunately we are living through abnormal times where it seems that right has become wrong, and wrong has become right.    

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.