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Pope Francis calls for Hungary to be open to immigrants

Pope Francis called on Hungary to remain open to immigrants after meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Photo by Vatican Media Handout/EPA-EFE
Pope Francis called on Hungary to remain open to immigrants after meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Photo by Vatican Media Handout/EPA-EFE

Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Pope Francis on Sunday called for Hungary to "extend its arms toward everyone" after meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Orban who has called for a "closed-door" Europe.

Speaking during an outdoor mass before ending his 7-hour trip to Hungary, Francis called on Hungary to be "grounded and open, rooted and considerate" in a gentle rebuke of the prime minister's immigration policies.

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After the meeting, Orban shared a photo of himself talking with the pope and said he had asked Francis "not to let Christian Hungary perish."

The Vatican simply described the meeting with Orban and Hungarian President Janos Ader as cordial, noting they discussed the Hungarian church the environment and the "protection and promotion of the family," while not mentioning immigration.

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During Sunday's speech, Francis referenced Budapest's Szechenyi Chain Bridge, which connects the city's eastern and western neighborhoods, stating that it "does not fuse those two parts together, but rather holds them together."

"Whenever we were tempted to absorb the other we were tearing down instead of building up," he said. "Or when we tried to ghettoize others instead of including them. How often has this happened throughout history! We must be vigilant and pray that it never happens again."

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The trip came at the closing of the International Eucharistic Congress, as Francis met with representatives of the Ecumenical Council of Churches and Jewish leaders in Hungary.

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Francis also used the speech to denounce the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and globally, stating it is "a fuse that must not be allowed to burn."

"The best way to defuse it is to work together, positively and to promote fraternity," he said.

The trip marked Francis' first since he was hospitalized for 10 days as he recovered from colon surgery.

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