Pope blesses Hungarians on national feast day

Pope Francis greets the crowds outside the Basilica of St John Lateran on April 7 2013 Credit Stephen Driscoll CNA 2 CNA 4 8 13 Pope Francis greets the crowds outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran on April 7, 2013. | Stephen Driscoll/CNA.

Pope Francis sent a message to the president and citizens of Hungary today, praying for the nation as it celebrates the feast of its founder and first king, St. Stephen of Hungary.

"I ask God that the Hungarian people might find within themselves, and their human and spiritual heritage, the moral resources necessary in order to build a future of peace and fraternity," he told president János Áder in an Aug. 20 message, Vatican Radio reported.

The Holy Father invoked "an abundance of Divine blessings" on the nation's leaders and all its citizens as they gathered to celebrate their national feast day.

Saint Stephen is celebrated each year in Hungary on Aug. 20 and celebrations include Mass in the Basilica of Saint Stephen in Budapest and the procession of the saint's incorrupt right hand, known as the "Holy Right."

Saint Stephen founded the country of Hungary nearly 1,000 years ago, and worked to convert the nation to Christianity.

He sent Abbot Astricus to Rome to ask Pope Sylvester II for the royal dignity and the power to establish episcopal sees in order to convert Hungary into Christianity.

Pope Sylvester accepted and also presented him with a royal crown on Aug. 17, 1001 at Gran.

St. Stephan then went on to found a monastery in Jerusalem and hostels for pilgrims in the cities of Rome, Ravenna and Constantinople in modern day Turkey.

After his son died, several of his nephews quarreled about the right of succession and some tried to organize a conspiracy to kill him.

Although his feast day is on Sept. 2, his homeland celebrates it on Aug. 20 because his relics were taken to Buda, Hungary on that day.

He died on the Feast of the Assumption, 1038 and was canonized by Pope Gregory VII in 1083 alongside his son, Saint Emeric.

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