Pope to meet Hungary's populist leader Orban
Published2 hours ago
Pope Francis is set to meet Hungary's populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a short stop in the capital Budapest.
The meeting is expected to highlight differences between the pontiff's views and Mr Orban's nationalist and anti-immigrant policies.
The Pope will then spend three days in Slovakia, where he will meet members of the Jewish and Roma communities.
It is his first international trip since surgery earlier this year.
The Pope has previously criticised political leaders who tried to erect barriers to keep migrants out, and in 2019 donated money to help migrants in Mexico seeking to reach the US border.
In Budapest the Pope will also take Mass as part of a week-long Catholic event in the city.
by Nick Thorpe, Budapest correspondent
Tens of thousands of Christians from around the world have attended the Eucharistic Congress in Budapest in the past week, and the presence of Pope Francis in Heroes Square will be the climax of their gathering.
His meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Orban is more controversial.
While the Pope, from the start of his papacy, has emphasised the need to welcome and care for refugees from war and violence, whatever their faith, the Hungarian prime minister is a champion of keeping those he describes as "illegal migrants", and especially Muslims, out of Europe.
Mr Orban's Fidesz government also stands up for persecuted Christians around the world - an issue on which the two men might find more common ground.
Meanwhile in Slovakia his visit aims to improve Catholic-Jewish relations. He will meet members of the Jewish community including Holocaust survivors in Rybne Square, a traditionally Jewish part of the capital Bratislava.
During World War Two tens of thousands of Jews were deported from Slovakia to concentration camps under the orders of a Nazi puppet regime headed by a Catholic priest.
Francis has visited dozens of countries since he became pope in 2013, although his travels have recently been affected by the spread of coronavirus.
Earlier this year, he made a historic four-day trip to Iraq, the first ever by a pope, during which he visited areas once held by Islamic State (IS) militants.
Pope prays amid ruins of churches in northern Iraq
In July, the 84-year-old spent 10 days in hospital while he received treatment for a colon problem.
He also suffers from a number of other health issues. He lost part of his right lung at the age of 21 and also suffers from a hip problem and sciatica, which causes pain that radiates from the lower back to the legs.
In 2014, he had to cancel a number of engagements because of a reported stomach ailment.