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Why is Pope Francis going to Hungary in 2023

Pope Francis is set to make a three-day Apostolic Journey to Hungary from 28 to 30 April 2023. His trip will only include Budapest and will not visit the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma, as previously planned, or the Primatial See of Esztergom, where the Basilica is currently closed for renovations. Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, confirmed that the Pope had accepted the invitation of civil and ecclesiastical authorities to visit Budapest.

During his trip, Pope Francis will deliver five speeches and one homily, with all three days focused on the city of Budapest. The first day will be dedicated to institutional meetings, the second day to meetings with the poor and young people, and the third day will focus on the Mass and the world of culture, an unusual event during the Pope's travels.

On 28 April, the Pope will arrive in Budapest at 10 a.m. and will then have the customary meetings with President Katalin Novak, Prime Minister Viktor Orbam, and authorities, civil society, and the Diplomatic Corps, which will take place in the former Carmelite monastery. That evening, the Pope will meet with bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, seminarians, and pastoral workers in St. Stephen's co-cathedral.

The next morning, the Pope will meet with children from the institute dedicated to Blessed Laszlo Batthyany-Strattman, the "doctor of the poor" beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003. Then, he will have a meeting with the poor and refugees at the Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. In the afternoon, the Pope will meet with young people at the Budapest Arena. That evening, he will meet with members of the Society of Jesus.

On the last day, 30 April, there will be a Mass in Kossuth Lajos Square in the morning and a meeting with the academic and cultural world at the Faculty of Informatics and Biomedical Sciences of the "Péter Pázmány" Catholic University in the afternoon. Then, in the evening, Pope Francis will leave for Rome, arriving at around 8 p.m.

Despite the reduced schedule, Pope Francis keeps his promise to visit Hungary, responding to the invitation of Premier Viktor Orban, who had met with the pontiff in April 2020, and that of President Katalin Novak, who had visited the Vatican in August and subsequently formed a committee for the preparation of the trip led by Zoltán Kovács, State Secretary responsible for communications and international relations.

It remains to be seen if Pope Francis will meet with the Metropolitan Hilarion, the former head of External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate and now the Metropolitan of Hungary. It was Hilarion who organized the first meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, and it was also Hilarion who laid the groundwork for a second meeting, which has not yet taken place.

During his conversation with Katalin Novak, the Pope was reportedly impressed by the nation's family policies. At the same time, it is worth noting that Hungary has established a secretariat for persecuted Christians, which has provided aid to suffering churches through the "Hungary Helps" program.

Compared to the September 2021 meeting, there will be much more institutional scope during the Pope's upcoming visit. Last time, it was the country's authorities who reached out to the Holy See.

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