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Hungary president heads to Vatican after Ukraine visit

Pope Francis speaks with Hungary's President Katalin Novak during the farewell ceremony at Budapest International Airport

Photo by Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP

Pope Francis speaks with Hungary's President Katalin Novak during the farewell ceremony at Budapest International Airport

I.Media - published on 08/26/23

Pope is working especially on the issue of abducted Ukrainian children.

Almost four months after his trip to Hungary, Pope Francis received Hungarian President Katalin Novák for 45 minutes in private on August 25, 2023, the Vatican press office reported. This second visit by the President to the Vatican took place against the backdrop of diplomatic efforts to find a resolution to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, as Novák was in Ukraine on August 23.

During the audience, the Pope hand-dedicated a photo album commemorating his April 28-30 trip to Budapest. In it, he expressed the hope that Hungary would “spread a message of peace to war-wounded Europe.”

The 86-year-old Pontiff also presented his host with a bronze sculpture of a vine and a dove, on the theme of peace.

The president, who spoke in Spanish without an interpreter, presented the Pontiff with an icon of the Ukrainian region of Transcarpathia, in the west of the country, home to a significant Hungarian minority: a symbolic gift, since since 2014, Ukrainian laws restricting minority rights in this region have been a source of tension between Ukraine and Hungary.

According to our information, the head of the Catholic Church and his host discussed specifically the issue of children abducted by Russia, a subject of great attention from the Holy See. In recent months, the Pope has sent Cardinal Matteo Zuppi to Kiev, Moscow, and Washington to plead this cause.

According to diplomatic sources, the Pontiff and the president expressed a “cordial understanding” and agreed on “the need for peace as soon as possible.”

The war in Ukraine was also at the heart of discussions in the Secretariat of State. Received by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Mirosław Wachowski, Under-Secretary for Relations with States, Novák spoke with them in particular about “the humanitarian situation and efforts to end the conflict,” reported the Vatican press release issued after the meeting.

Trip to Ukraine

Two days earlier, on August 23, Katalin Novák was in Ukraine to meet President Zelensky for the annual summit on Crimea. Since the beginning of the conflict, Hungarian and Vatican diplomacy have converged on the call for peace. Unlike most European countries, Hungary supports Ukraine with humanitarian aid, but not with military aid.

After her meeting with President Zelensky, Novák tweeted that “Hungary joins the negotiations of the peace formula initiated by the Ukrainian President.” She pledged her country’s cooperation “especially in the case of war-affected children.”

Defending the family

The President’s visit to the Vatican also provided an opportunity to discuss “themes of common interest, such as the family and Christian values,” as well as “religious freedom and the situation of persecuted Christians around the world.”

In Hungary, Novák, former Minister for the Family in the Orbán government and mother of three, is the embodiment of the defense of the family.

Elected in 2022, the President, whose constitutional prerogatives are limited, essentially plays an international representative role. She had already been received at the Vatican on August 25, 2022. And she attended the funeral of Benedict XVI on January 5, 2023.

HungaryPope FrancisRussiaUkraine
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