Pope Travels to Hungary, Slovakia in First Post-surgery Trip
Pope Francis travels to Hungary and Slovakia Sunday on his first foreign trip since undergoing surgery in July. He will meet Hungarian officials during a very short visit to Budapest, and preside over the closing mass of a eucharistic congress. Francis then travels to Slovakia, where he is expected to visit three cities before returning to the Vatican on Wednesday. Francis will spend just seven hours in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, where he will be closing the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress. The visit to Hungary and Slovakia, the 34th abroad of this papacy, is his first foreign trip since the 84-year-old pontiff underwent intestinal surgery just two months ago.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the visit is intended to be a “spiritual journey.” It starts with the Christian rite of Holy Communion and ends with prayers and celebration of Our Lady of Sorrows, Slovakia’s patron saint, who is believed to watch over Slavic lands wounded by totalitarianism.
Francis asked for prayers for his pilgrimage to the heart of Europe, where he is expected to address issues that affect the entire continent.
These will be days marked by adoration and prayer in the heart of Europe, the pope said, thanking those who helped prepare this visit. The pope sent greetings to those waiting to meet with him and said he was looking forward to this visit.
The Hungarian ambassador to the Holy See, Eduard Habsburg-Lothringen, told Vatican Radio that the people of Hungary view the pope’s presence in Budapest as “a real gift.”
Francis will meet with the country’s top authorities, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Observers and Catholic media have noted that the brevity of his stay in Hungary compared to Slovakia is likely due to the differences that exist between the pope and the nationalist and anti-immigrant policies of the prime minister.
The pope’s meeting with Orban will take place before the closing mass of the Eucharistic Congress, a gathering of clergy, monks, nuns and lay people, in Budapest’s Heroes Square.
After the Sunday afternoon mass, Francis will travel to Bratislava, where he will stay until Wednesday, while visiting three other cities in Slovakia. He will meet with the country’s authorities, the Jewish community and the Roma population in the town of Kosice.
The pope will celebrate two open air masses in Slovakia. The leadership in this country is also against uncontrolled immigration but their opposition has not been quite as strong and vocal as in Hungary.
This four-day pilgrimage will test the pope’s strength following his recent surgery. Bruni said no special measures have been adopted, except the usual caution for a papal trip. He said there is always a doctor and nurses in the papal entourage.