Pope Francis has returned from touring Hungary, a bastion of European conservatism, where his mixed messaging is seemingly at odds with national sentiment. At a Mass celebrated Sunday in Budapest, His Holiness called on the Hungarian government — led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and President Katalin Novák, both Christian, neither Catholic — to loosen its stringent border control policies. Over 50,000 people were present at the Mass, including Orbán and Novák. The pope said, “We Christians, all of us called by name by the Good Shepherd, are summoned to receive and spread his love, to make his fold inclusive and never to exclude others.” He called on Hungary to “open the doors” to immigrants and refugees, noting “[h]ow sad and painful it is to see closed doors.” Francis has long advocated for immigration policies bordering (no pun intended) on open borders.
It’s a shame Francis doesn’t recognize how the nation’s border policies dovetail with its pro-family policies.
The pontiff’s comments were likely not appreciated by Orbán. Under the leadership of his Fidesz party, Hungary has developed and enforced strict border-control policies, often garnering criticism from more left-leaning European heads of state. A report released last month, however, revealed that Hungary’s immigration policies were actually responsible for a more than 20 percent drop in illegal immigration into Europe as a whole. Despite leftist criticisms, other European nations are following Hungary’s lead, like Italy, under the leadership of conservative Catholic Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and even France, helmed by leftist darling Emmanuel Macron, once a vocal critic of Orbán’s border policies.
Orbán has been one of the driving forces behind protecting his homeland’s borders. In 2021, he explained that his border-control policies are a defense of Hungarian national identity, which he clearly holds dear:
If we invite others from outside Europe that will change the cultural identity of Europe…. There are some countries that accept it but Hungary is not among those countries. We would not like to change the cultural identity of our country so we don’t accept migration as a solution to demographic politics or demographic challenges.
He loudly encourages all Hungarians to hold their national heritage dear, too. For example, Orbán earlier this year said that his country’s national anthem highlights Hungarians’ “greatest struggles — sometimes peaceful, sometimes warlike — [which] have always been fought so that we can remain who we are, so that we can live as we want to live.” If the prime minister’s policies are any indication, he also considers the family core to who Hungarians are and how they want to live.
Orbán and Fidesz have worked hard to encourage Hungarians to grow their families, including by exempting mothers under 30 from paying income tax and introducing various government subsidies and tax breaks to support larger families. Most notably, Orbán has proven himself a staunch opponent of abortion, even trying to ban abortion in Hungary entirely. Although that attempt proved unsuccessful, he did manage to adjust the constitution to clarify that life begins at conception. His party has also allowed hospitals to outright refuse to perform abortions and has required any woman seeking an abortion to listen to her unborn baby’s heartbeat.
Legal restrictions on promotion of homosexuality and the transgender agenda are also part of Hungary’s pro-family platform. Spearheaded by Orbán, Fidesz passed new laws in 2021 outlawing LGBT propaganda in classrooms, earning the ire of many of its fellow European Union member states as well as the U.S. In fact, the EU even announced that it would be taking Hungary to court for allegedly violating human rights — as if promoting sodomy to children were a human right. Gay “marriage” is also banned.
On these points, the retrograde prime minister and the apparently progressive pope clearly agree. On Friday, Francis condemned both LGBT propaganda and abortion:
This is the baneful path taken by those forms of “ideological colonization” that would cancel differences, as in the case of the so-called gender theory, or that would place before the reality of life reductive concepts of freedom, for example by vaunting as progress a senseless “right to abortion”, which is always a tragic defeat.
“Ideological colonization,” in Francis’ vernacular, is the imposition of such things as gender ideology or abortion by (predominantly Western) governments, coalitions, and powerhouse corporations on individual nations and cultures. The pope continued to praise Hungary’s opposition to this colonization, saying, “How much better it would be to build a Europe centred on the human person and on its peoples, with effective policies for natality and the family like those pursued attentively in this country.”
Hungary is clearly on the right track. It’s a shame Francis doesn’t recognize how the nation’s border policies dovetail with its pro-family policies; by ensuring its native population isn’t replaced — in the housing market, in the job market, and in the nation’s laws — by foreigners, Hungary is ensuring its families have a place to take root and grow.
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