52nd International Eucharistic Congress to Begin

CN Katarzyna ARtymiak
Photo: CNS/Katarzyna Artymiak

The 52nd International Eucharistic Congress will begin today in Budapest.

The Congress will celebrate the Roman Catholic doctrine of bearing witness to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and will convene leaders from across the international Roman Catholic Church, including Pope Francis.

The choice to hold the Congress in Hungary is a controversial one, as Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his right-wing nationalist party Fidesz have increasingly centered Christianity and the Church in justifying their increasingly autocratic policies, including curtailing press freedom, eroding judicial impartiality and undermining multiparty democracy. After Hungarian Secretary of State Peter Zambo stated at a religious ceremony that he hoped the event would “remind [Hungarians] of our Hungarianness,” expect Orban and Fidesz to use this supposed church approval to further justify their increasingly right-wing anti-immigrant policies.

Further, anticipate Pope Francis taking a different tack in his leading of the Congress’ closing mass on September 12. As a vocal supporter of the cause of refugees entering Europe and a critic of populism, the Pope is likely to use his homily to push back against anti-immigrant rhetoric and to encourage openness and freedom, though he is unlikely to directly reference Orban or Fidesz in doing so.

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