A litany for peace went up from Budapest on Saturday morning, 29 April, at the conclusion of Pope Francis’ visit to the Greek Catholic Church of the Protection of the Mother of God.
At the end of a busy morning, the Pontiff arrived there from the nearby Latin church dedicated to Saint Elizabeth. The visit, which was not on the Pope’s official itinerary, was a profound gesture of attention to the 400,000 Greek Catholic faithful who live in Hungary. The visit confirmed in the faith this Hungarian eastern Church, which Pope Francis himself had reorganized in March 2015, when he elevated the then Eparchy of Hajdúdorog to Metropolitan Church sui iuris, and promoted then Bishop Péter Fülöp Kocsis to Metropolitan Archbishop. And it was precisely Metropolitan Kocsis who welcomed the Pope at the entrance of the small temple, introducing the community of the Byzantine rite to the Bishop of Rome. “From John Paul ii ”, he said, “we learned that the Church breathes with two lungs: the spirit of the West and spirit of the East. This poetic and theological image is manifested in a particular way in this very square”, he said, where “two churches find themselves next to each other, and two communities, one of the Latin rite and one of the Byzantine rite, live together in the same place”.
“From our first unions”, he added, “we have had to suffer on account of this double belonging. Our martyrs died not only for the Christian faith but above all for being faithful to the Catholic Church, instead of bending to the dictates of communist violence”. That is why, he concluded, “we intend to become a bridge between the two sister Churches”. The Metropolitan then presented Pope Francis with a simple but symbolic gift; a chotki, or, komboskini, rosary, knitted by young parishioners. Pope Francis, in turn, gave the parish a chalice. He then spent a moment praying with those present, concluding with a litany for peace and asking the Lord for the salvation of souls, for the whole world, for the unity of the Church, for the health of the environment and for the abundance of the earth’s fruits.