During the weekly general audience on May 3, 2023, Pope Francis spoke about his recent trip to Hungary using “two images: roots and bridges,” which he explained are a testament of Hungarian Catholics fervor but can also be important for all to develop in their faith.
Pope Francis visited Hungary from April 28 to 30 and stayed in the capital, Budapest, where he met the local clergy, young people, political leaders and more.
“To the Queen of Hungary, therefore, we entrust that dear country; to the Queen of Peace, we entrust the building of bridges in the world; to the Queen of Heaven, whom we acclaim at this Easter time, we entrust our hearts that they may be rooted in the love of God,” the Pope said.
Roots are strengthened by trials and by the testimonies of saints
In underlining the strong roots from where Hungarian Catholicism originates, Pope Francis emphasized two things: the importance of saints and trials. These elements help preserve the roots of our faith as “only by going deep will the branches grow upwards and bear fruit.”
In his meetings in Hungary “with the local Church and with the young people,” the Pope said he felt that the saints were central in defining the populations’ Catholicism. “Saints who gave their lives for the people, saints who bore witness to the Gospel of love and who were lights in times of darkness; so many saints of the past who today exhort us to overcome the risk of defeatism and the fear of tomorrow, remembering that Christ is our future. The saints remind us of this: Christ is our future.”
Francis then explained that throughout history “the solid Christian roots of the Hungarian people have been put to the test. Their faith was tested by fire.”
The Pontiff remembered “the atheist persecution of the 20th century” but highlighted that “while attempts were made to cut down the tree of faith, the roots remained intact: There remained a hidden Church, but alive, strong, with the power of the Gospel.”
He also emphasized the Nazi persecution and the solidarity that emerged with the Jewish population during the Holocaust. “This was possible because the roots of living together were firm,” he added, while wishing happy birthday to Edith Bruck, a Jewish novelist and Holocaust survivor of Hungarian origin. The Pope also explained that there are still threats today to one’s Catholic roots, notably by a “dangerous persecution [from] worldliness, brought about by consumerism.”
“So let us reflect on the importance of preserving the roots […]. Each of us can ask ourselves, even as a people, each of us: What are the most important roots in my life? Where am I rooted? Do I remember them, do I care for them?” Francis asked.
Building bridges for peace and among diversity
“Budapest, born 150 years ago from the union of three cities, is famous for the bridges that cross it and unite its parts,” Francis said to illustrate the second element of his speech. He explained that building bridges for peace, with people who are different from us and for a sustainable future, are all important for a better world.
The Pontiff said that “building bridges” is “in particular, the vocation of Europe” so that it can “include differences and welcome those who knock on its doors.” He applauded Hungary’s efforts in welcoming Ukrainian refugees. Francis also highlighted how the country is “building bridges for tomorrow” through their concern for ecology and a sustainable future and their creation of links between older and younger generations.
The Pope also highlighted the bridges that the Church can build as it “is called upon to stretch towards the people of today, because the proclamation of Christ cannot consist only in repeating the past, but always needs to be updated, so as to help the women and men of our time to rediscover Jesus.” He praised the local Church’s “building of bridges between believers” of different rites, countries, and denominations.