While Viktor Orbán claims respect for ‘faith, family and nation’, tension between Hungary’s ever more authoritarian government and the Catholic Church is increasing
The 52nd International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest has not yet started and Pope Francis is not due to celebrate the closing Mass till the morning of 12 September. But the memorialisation of the event has already begun. On Sunday 22 August, the lakeside town of Balatonfüred in western Hungary, 80 miles away, witnessed the setting up of a giant cross in honour of the occasion – the first of 21 to be erected around the country at the government’s expense.
Speaking after the blessing of the cross by the celebrity Franciscan friar Csaba Böjte, state secretary Péter Zámbó told onlookers the crosses “will remind us of our belonging together, our Hungarianness”. The sacrificial death of Jesus Christ for all humanity seemed to have been temporarily overlooked. The well-funded event and surrounding nationalist rhetoric pithily symbolises the “political Christianity” now characteristic of the Fidesz party, which has dominated Hungarian politics since its landslide victory and return to power in the 2010 general election.