Vatican unveils program of Pope Francis’ 7-hour trip to Hungary

Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere), Budapest, Hungary Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere), Budapest, Hungary. | Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Vatican unveiled on Wednesday an intensive program for Pope Francis’ trip to Hungary on Sept. 12.

The pope is scheduled to spend just under seven hours in the country before embarking on a three-day visit to neighboring Slovakia.

A program released by the Vatican on July 21 confirmed that the pope would meet with Viktor Orbán during his whirlwind visit, following speculation that he would snub the Hungarian prime minister.

Pope Francis is traveling to Hungary to celebrate the closing Mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest.

The last time a pope took part in an International Eucharistic Congress was in the year 2000, when John Paul II attended the event in Rome.

Pope Francis will depart for Hungary from Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport at 6 a.m. on Sept. 12, arriving at Budapest International Airport at 7:45 a.m.

After an official welcome, he will meet for half an hour with Orbán and Hungarian President János Áder at the Museum of Fine Arts, located in Budapest’s Heroes’ Square.

The Museum of Fine Arts, in Budapest’s Heroes’ Square. / Lóránd Péter via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).
The Museum of Fine Arts, in Budapest’s Heroes’ Square. / Lóránd Péter via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Earlier this month, the Vatican’s “foreign minister” rejected suggestions that Pope Francis’ decision to make just a brief trip to Hungary was connected with the policies of the country’s government.

“No, it’s not any judgment on a government or authorities in Hungary,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher told an interviewer. “The pope was very clear right from the beginning that he was going to Budapest exclusively to celebrate the concluding Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress.”

After meeting with the prime minister and president, the pope will give a speech to the country’s Catholic bishops, followed by another address to representatives of the Ecumenical Council of Churches and Jewish communities.

He will then leave the Museum of Fine Arts to celebrate the closing Mass in Heroes’ Square at 11:30 a.m.

Afterwards, he will return to the airport for a farewell ceremony, leaving for the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, at 2:30 p.m.

Pope Francis formally announced on July 4 that he would travel to Hungary and Slovakia in September.

He had previously mentioned the possibility of visiting the neighboring central European countries during an in-flight press conference in March.

The week-long International Eucharist Congress was originally scheduled to take place in 2020 but was postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hungary has a population of 9.8 million people, 62% of whom are Catholic. The country, which borders Austria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Ukraine, and Slovakia, last hosted the Eucharistic Congress in 1938.

St. John Paul II was the last pope to travel to Hungary, visiting Pannonhalma and Győr 25 years ago in 1996.

Cardinal Péter Erdő has said that Catholics in Hungary are looking forward to the papal visit, which he will host as the archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest.

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“The Catholic community is waiting for the arrival of the Holy Father in great joy and love. We are praying for his visit to be the sign of hope and a new beginning after the abatement of the pandemic,” he said on July 4.

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