Pope Francis arrives in Hungary for lightning visit

Pope Francis arrives to board the plane for his visit to Hungary and Slovakia, at Fiumicino Airport near Rome, Italy, September 12, 2021. REUTERS/Alberto Lingria

Pope Francis arrived in Hungary early on Sunday, starting an unusually short stay that will underline differences with nationalist and anti-immigrant Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Francis, 84, will spend only seven hours in the capital Budapest to close an international Roman Catholic meeting before moving on to Slovakia, where he will stay much longer, visiting four cities before leaving on Wednesday.

The Vatican's schedule says Francis is due to meet Orban and President Janos Ader as well as bishops and representatives of some Jewish communities before saying Mass to conclude a Church congress that began last Sunday.

The extreme brevity of his stay in Budapest has prompted diplomats and Catholic media to suggest that the pope, making his first trip since surgery in July, is giving priority to Slovakia, in effect snubbing Hungary.

Francis has often denounced what he sees as a resurgence of nationalist and populist movements, called for European unity, and criticised countries that try to solve the migration crisis with unilateral or isolationist actions.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella and Gergely Szakacs; Editing by William Mallard)


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