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Pope Francis outlines his vision for Europe's future at start of three-day visit to Hungary

The Pope now needs a cane to walk.
The Pope now needs a cane to walk. Copyright Andrew Medichini/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Andrew Medichini/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AP
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Hungary's nationalist leader Viktor Orban and the Pontiff have starkly different views on migration and the war in Ukraine.

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Pope Francis on Friday blasted the “adolescent belligerence” that brought war back to Europe and said the continent must recover its founding spirit of peaceful unity to confront Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Francis outlined his vision for the future of Europe as he began a three-day visit to Hungary.

In a carefully calibrated speech, he demanded that the European Union approve safe and legal ways for migrants to enter.

“We seem to be witnessing the sorry sunset of that choral dream of peace, as the solists of war now take over,” Francis said. 

Hungarian officials said the pope’s visit, his second to Budapest in as many years, was designed primarily to let him minister to the country’s Catholic community. 

But the war in neighbouring Ukraine and Prime Minister Viktor Orban's clash with other EU nations over rule of law issues and LGBTQ+ rights,  means Francis’ words and deeds in the heart of Europe carried strong political undertones.

The pope plans to meet on Saturday with some 35,000 Ukrainian refugees who remain in Hungary. Nearly 2.5 million refugees entered the country early on in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Orban has called for a cease-fire. But the nationalist prime minister has refused to supply Kyiv with weapons and threatened to veto EU sanctions against Moscow while maintaining Hungary’s strong dependence on Russian energy. 

His government also said it would not arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is the subject of an international arrest warrant on war crimes charges, if he came to Hungary.

The 86-year-old pontiff, who walks with difficulty because of bad knee ligaments, is testing his frail health with his latest trip. He spent four days in the hospital last month with bronchitis. 

LGBTQ+ rights

The visit comes as the European Union’s legislature continues to put pressure on Hungary to counter what EU lawmakers consider a deterioration in the rule of law and democratic principles, including media freedom and LGBTQ+ rights. 

Hungary outlaws same-sex marriage, and the government has prohibited same-sex couples from adopting children. The government has also outlawed the depiction of homosexuality or divergent gender identities to minors in media content.

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