Pope Francis leads a mass at Heroes Square in Budapest, Hungary on September 12, 2021. Reuters/Remo Cassili
September 12, 2021
Gergely Szakacs. By
BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Pope Francis called for caution on Sunday against a rise in anti-Semitic sentiment, saying during a brief visit to Hungary it was a “fuse that should not be allowed to burn.”
The pope arrived in Hungary on Sunday morning for an unusually short visit, outlining differences with his political opponent, nationalist and anti-immigrant Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
More than half a million Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust, which destroyed the once vibrant culture throughout the country.
Today, there are approximately 75,000 to 100,000 Jews in Hungary, the largest number in Central Europe, according to the World Jewish Congress, most of them in Budapest.
“I think the danger of anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere is still lurking,” the pope said at an ecumenical meeting in Budapest with leaders of other Christian faiths and Jews.
“It is a fuse that should not be allowed to burn. And the best way to calm it down is to work together, positively and foster fraternity,” he said.
A survey by the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, Mazsihisz-commissioned think tank Median, found that one in five Hungarians were strongly anti-Semitic, while the other 16% surveyed were moderately anti-Semitism.
The survey, published in July and conducted during 2019-2020, stated that there were fewer anti-Semitic acts such as vandalism and physical attacks in Hungary compared to other European countries.
In his speech, the Pope highlighted the image of Budapest’s famous Chain Bridge over the Danube River, connecting the two parts of the Hungarian capital Buda and Pest.
“Whenever we were tempted to assimilate the other, we were breaking down instead of building. Or when we tried to make them ghetto instead of including others,” the Pope said. “We must remain vigilant and pray that this does not happen again.”
He said that Christian leaders should commit to an education in the fraternity to stand against the wrath of hatred.
Orban, who has been in power since 2010, raised concerns in the Hungarian Jewish community when several years earlier he used the image of American financier George Soros, who is Jewish, in an anti-immigration billboard campaign.
In May, Orban told reporters that the anti-Semitic allegations against him were “ridiculous”, adding that Hungary was “more than a fair and correct country in that regard”.
Orban has also said that Jews should feel safe under his government and that Hungary would show “zero tolerance” for anti-Semitism.
(Reporting by Georgy Szacz. Editing by Philip Pullela and Jane Merriman)