Orbán marches to a different drumbeat than Pope Francis

Readers of the Montreal Gazette will likely notice András Göllner’s column in this morning’s paper. The founder of the Canadian Hungarian Democratic Charter explores Pope Francis’ approach to compassion, diversity and inclusion, contrasting this with authoritarian political leaders, most notably Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Prof. Göllner’s piece is worth a read and most certainly worth sharing here in the HFP.


Last week’s visit to the United States by the spiritual head of the Roman Catholic Church once again demonstrated the enormous power of faith as an instrument of healing and spiritual renewal.

A man of simple origins, speaking in a soft voice, and with a humbleness that stands in stark contrast to the behaviour of many of our political leaders here and abroad, Pope Francis delivered a powerful and consistent message. He reminded us that the edifice of civilization must be built on the principles of social justice and compassion. In a world increasingly torn apart by hatred and violence between conflicting groups and beliefs, he showed us how to embrace diversity and turn it into a force that can liberate humanity from its self-destructive ways.

Pope Francis. Photo: Benhur Arcayan.

Pope Francis. Photo: Benhur Arcayan.

Whether in front of world leaders at the United Nations, at the joint session of the U.S. Congress or in Philadelphia, before thousands of ordinary Americans, the Pope gave a ringing endorsement of diversity and multiculturalism. He chastised those leaders who hinder their followers from freely evaluating the validity claims of competing ideas, be they religious or political in nature. Instead of lecturing atheists, he embraced them and asked them to pray for him.

His stance stands in stark contrast to such worldly rulers as Vladimir Putin of Russia, Viktor Orbán of Hungary, and all the corrupt autocrats and religious zealots in the Middle East, North Africa and around the world, who are using patriotism, national unity, religion or the most recent refugee crisis, to undermine the rule of law, justice and respect for human dignity.

Instead of fomenting hatred against illegal immigrants — the favourite pastime of such people as Donald Trump or Orbán – the Pope called for compassion, and a spirit of helpfulness toward victims of religious and political intolerance.

Instead of looking upon immigrants as threats to our national, cultural and religious identities, he called for a different mindset. He reminded his listeners of the incredible contribution different faiths, cultures, ethnicities made to Europe and the Americas over the centuries. He called upon us to look at immigrants not as disruptive and destructive elements but as people who can enrich, sustain and energize our decaying societies.

The Pope used his moment in the limelight to remind us of the values that are at the core of European and global Christianity: Love and compassion for our neighbours, for the exploited and those who sufferer from various injustices in their own lands.

But the most resonant part of his message was the encouragement he gave to those who are the targets of the rising anti-immigrant wave spreading across Europe and America.

He encouraged America’s immigrant community to embrace their difference, to be proud of themselves and to lift up their heads and feel the grace of the Lord in their souls.

It was the Pope’s personal connection with all the immigrants of the world wherever they may be — in the orchards of California, on the high seas in a raft, half way up Orbán’s razor-tipped fence, in the camps of Turkey — that really resonated.

He has heard the cries of the exploited and marginalized. It’s high time our own political leaders listen up as well. The global refugee crisis, and the problems that set it into motion deserves global attention. It cannot be left to petty tyrants to use as a means of enhancing their power and personal affluence.

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