“The bishops, priests, monks, and nuns martyred during atheist persecution testify Hungarians’ rock-hard faith,” Pope Francis said in Saint Stephen’s Basilica on Friday.
The pope, who met leaders of the Hungarian Catholic Church, commemorated Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, and quoted the late cardinal as saying “if there are one million Hungarians praying, I am not afraid of the future”.
“Be welcoming, make a testimony of the evangelical tidings, but first of all, be people of prayer, because that is what history and the future depends on,” the pope said.
Francis also thanked Hungarian priests, monks, and their co-workers “for their faith and faithfulness”. He made a special mention of Hungarian Mary Ward sisters, who had fled to Argentina during the times of persecution, who had been especially kind to him.
The pope said one of the Church’s most important tasks was to interpret changes in the world and to “face pastoral challenges”, and advocated “looking to Christ as our future”.
“Our life, fragile as it is, is firmly in Christ’s hands, and if we forget about that, we, pastors and laymen, will find human solutions to save ourselves from the world, isolated in our comfortable and peaceful religious oases. Or the opposite, we will adapt to the changing winds of a mundane world, which leads to Christianity losing its power and ceasing to be the salt of the Earth,” the pope said, and warned against “both temptations”.
The Scriptures provide “new vision against catastrophic low-spiritedness or a mundane spirit of conformism”, the pope said. Through the Bible, one can “learn to recognise the signs of God’s presence in the world … even when presented in the form of a challenge or question” he added.
“All should be interpreted in the light of the Gospel, as witnesses and preachers of Christian prophesy,” Francis said.
Francis warned, however, that in Hungary, in which “the tradition of the faith has solid roots”, there have appeared the “signs of secularisation … jeopardising the unity and beauty of the family, exposing young people to the temptations of a material and hedonisting ideal of life”. The Church, therefore, is faced “with the temptation of locking itself up and becoming militant. Yet, this reality could also offer an opportunity for discussion and asking questions,” he added.
Christian communities have an obligation for dialogue, an obligation that they should “be present and make a testimony, able to listen to questions and face challenges without fear or rigidity,” Francis said.
On arriving at the basilica, the pope was greeted by Cardinal Peter Erdo, the head of the Hungarian Catholic Church, and Bishop Andras Veres, the leader of the Hungarian Bishops’ Conference.
In his address, Veres said Hungary was going through an “extremely big social, political, spiritual, and religious transformation” and the Church was “seeking ways to face the new challenges”. The Hungarian Catholic Church is working to be an active participant in the changes rather than being a passive observers, he said.
Among the challenges, Veres mentioned secularisation, hedonism, indifference to biblical values, as well as “difficulties of passing on the faith in the family” and the dwindling number of priests. At the same time, he pointed to “new and welcome expressions of religious life” such as new religious movements, Catholic schools and universities, and “greater presence and involvement of laymen in church life”.
Addressing the pope, the bishop said Hungarians would welcome his guidelines “on this way because we want to make a credible testimony in a changing world that our future is in Christ”.