Pope Francis called for an end to antisemitism Sunday during an unusually short trip to Hungary, where he warned that prejudice against Jews was a “fuse that must not be allowed to burn.”
“I think of the threat of antisemitism still lurking in Europe and elsewhere,” the pope said at an ecumenical meeting of Christian and Jewish leaders in the capital, Budapest.
“This is a fuse that must not be allowed to burn. And the best way to defuse it is to work together, positively, and to promote fraternity,” he said.
Francis, on his first international outing since he had intestinal surgery in July, spent seven hours in Budapest, where he presided over a lengthy Mass for a crowd that organizers said reached 100,000 people, before he moved on to a four-day tour of neighboring Slovakia.
He met briefly with Hungary’s populist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, whose hard-line policies on refugees clash with Francis’. The pope has previously said migrants and refugees seeking better lives in Europe should be welcomed. He has also criticized what he has called “national populism” advanced by governments like Hungary’s.
Orbán, who has been in power since 2010, upset Hungary’s Jewish community in 2017 when he used an image of the U.S. financier George Soros, who is Jewish, in an anti-immigration campaign. At the time, he rejected calls from the Jewish community to take the posters down.
Under Orbán’s leadership, Hungary approved a law to force a university founded by Soros out of the country, despite widespread condemnation at home and abroad. Orbán had claimed that Central European University violated regulations in awarding diplomas, an allegation the school rejected.
Orbán was also widely criticized for his comments at rally in March 2018, when he told supporters: “We are fighting an enemy that is different from us. … Not open, but hiding; not straightforward, but crafty; not honest, but base; not national, but international; does not believe in working, but speculates with money; does not have its own homeland, but feels it owns the whole world.”