At the General Audience on Wednesday morning, 3 May, Pope Francis retraced the most significant moments of his recent Apostolic Journey to Hungary. He highlighted the importance of bridges and roots and drew attention to Europe’s vocation to be a bridge of peace. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s words to the faithful.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Three days ago I returned from my trip to Hungary. I wish to thank all those who prepared and accompanied this visit with prayer, and to renew my gratitude to the Authorities, the local Church, and the Hungarian people, a courageous people, rich in memory. During my stay in Budapest, I was able to feel the affection of all Hungarians. Today I would like to tell you about this visit through two images: roots and bridges.
Roots. I went as a pilgrim to a people whose history — as Saint John Paul ii said — has been marked by “many saints and heroes, together with a great multitude of humble and hardworking people” (Speech at the welcome ceremony, Budapest, 6 September 1996). It is true: I have seen so many humble and hard-working people proudly cherish the bond with their roots. And, as the testimonies during the meetings with the local Church and with young people made clear, among these roots are first and foremost the saints: 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.
However, the solid Christian roots of the Hungarian people have been put to the test. Their faith was tested by fire. Indeed, during the atheist persecution of the 20th century, Christians were struck violently, with bishops, priests, religious, and lay people killed or deprived of their freedom. And while attempts were made to cut down the tree of faith, the roots remained intact: there remained a Church that was hidden but alive, strong, with the power of the Gospel. And in Hungary this last persecution, this communist oppression, was preceded by the Nazi oppression, with the tragic deportation of a large Jewish population. But many in that atrocious genocide distinguished themselves by their resistance and their ability to protect the victims. And this was possible because the roots of living together were firm. In Rome, we have a great Hungarian poet who has been through all these trials and tells young people of the need to fight for an ideal, not to be overcome by persecution, by discouragement. This poet is 92 years old today: Happy birthday, Edith Bruck!
But even today, as emerged in the meetings with young people and with the world of culture, freedom is under threat. How? Above all with kid gloves, by a consumerism that anaesthetises, where one is content with a little material well-being and, forgetting the past, one “floats” in a present made to the measure of the individual. This is the dangerous persecution of worldliness, brought about by consumerism. But when the only thing that counts is thinking about oneself and doing what one likes, the roots suffocate. This is a problem throughout Europe, where dedicating oneself to others, feeling a sense of community, feeling the beauty of dreaming together and creating large families are in crisis. The whole of Europe is in crisis. So let us reflect on the importance of preserving roots, because only by going deep will branches grow upwards and bear fruit. 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?
After the roots comes the second image: bridges. Budapest, born 150 years ago from the union of three cities, is famous for the bridges that cross it and unite its parts. This was used — especially in the meetings with the authorities — to refer to the importance of building bridges of peace between different peoples. This is, in particular, the vocation of Europe, which is called to be a “bridge of peace,” to include differences and to welcome those who knock on its doors. In this sense, the humanitarian bridge created for so many refugees from neighbouring Ukraine, whom I was able to meet while also admiring the great network of charity of the Hungarian Church, is beautiful.
The country is also very committed to building “bridges for the future”. There is great concern for ecological care — and this is a very, very beautiful thing about Hungary — ecological care and a sustainable future, and work is being done to build bridges between the generations, between the old and the young, a challenge that cannot be rejected by anyone today. There are also bridges that the Church, as emerged at the dedicated meeting, 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. And, finally, recalling with gratitude the beautiful liturgical moments, the prayer with the Greek Catholic community and the solemn Eucharistic Celebration that was so well attended, I think of the beauty of building bridges between believers: Sunday at Mass there were Christians of various rites and countries, and of different denominations, who work well together in Hungary. Building bridges, bridges of harmony and bridges of unity.
I was struck, on this visit, by the importance of music, which is a characteristic feature of Hungarian culture.
Finally, I want to recall, at the beginning of the month of May, how very devoted Hungarians are to the Holy Mother of God. Consecrated to her by the first king, Saint Stephen, they used to address her without pronouncing her name, out of respect, calling her only by the Queen’s titles. Let us therefore entrust that dear country to the Queen of Hungary; let us entrust the building of bridges in the world to the Queen of Peace; let us entrust our hearts to the Queen of Heaven, whom we praise at this Easter time, so that they may be rooted in God’s love.
I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially the groups from Chad, Nigeria, Uganda, New Zealand, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Canada and the United States of America. In the joy of the Risen Christ, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father. May the Lord bless you all!
Lastly, as usual, I address young people, the sick, the elderly and newlyweds. During this month of May which has just begun, I invite you to renew your devotion to Our Lady. I encourage you to become more profoundly acquainted with Mary, to be intimate with her in order to welcome her as a spiritual Mother and an example of fidelity to Christ.
I entrust the battered people of Ukraine to her, Mother of Consolation and Queen of Peace.
I offer my blessing to all of you!