Pope Francis urges Hungary not to close doors to migrants

Pontiff delivers sermon in Budapest in front of crowd, including hardline Prime Minister Victor Orban

Pope Francis leads a holy mass in Budapest on Sunday. EPA
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Hungarians should not have “closed doors” to migrants, Pope Francis has said during the final service of a three-day tour.

Speaking as a mass whose congregation included Victor Orban, Hungary’s hardline nationalist Prime Minister, the pontiff also warned of anti-migrant rhetoric against people who are “foreign or unlike us”.

He spoke to a crowd of more than 50,000 people gathered in Budapest for the last day of his visit to the country.

Pope Francis spoke of the growing danger of extreme nationalism in Europe, putting his sermon in a gospel context, stating that “doors closed to the world” were contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

The 86-year-old Pope told worshippers that if they wanted to follow Jesus, they had to shun “the closed doors of our individualism amid a society of growing isolation; the closed doors of our indifference towards the underprivileged and those who suffer; the doors we close towards those who are foreign or unlike us, towards migrants or the poor”.

The pontiff has previously stated that migrants fleeing poverty should be welcomed and integrated because they can culturally enrich host countries and boost Europe’s dwindling populations.

But the Hungarian government has built a steel fence on the border with Serbia to keep asylum seekers out.

Mr Orban, who sees himself as a protector of Christian values, has previously said he would not allow Hungary to be transformed into an “immigrant country”, as he claimed others in Europe had become, unrecognisable to its native people.

Reuters reported that Pope Francis also prayed to the Madonna to watch over the Ukrainian and Russian people.

“Instil in the hearts of peoples and their leaders the desire to build peace and to give the younger generations a future of hope, not war, a future full of cradles not tombs, a world of brothers and sisters, not walls,” he said.

Updated: April 30, 2023, 2:59 PM