Viktor Orbán visits Pope Francis — And Fidesz supporters attack the Pontiff and George Soros

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán appears to have had an audience with Pope Francis  and the Hungarian leader–whose government has explicitly gone against the message of compassion that the Catholic pontiff has shared in regards to the refugee crisis–was quick to post a photo of his reported visit to Facebook. Fidesz does, after all, govern together with the Christian Democratic People’s Party (Kereszténydemokrata Néppárt – KDNP)–a party with deep roots in the Catholic Church of Hungary. Mr. Orbán and the Hungarian right in general likes to identify itself as “Christian Conservative” and frequently accuses opponents of the government as being “anti-Christian.” Hungarian society, however, is not especially religious. According to the 2011 census, only 37% of Hungarians identified as Roman Catholic, 12% as Christian Reformed (Calvinist) and 2% as Lutheran. Only 54% of Hungarians identified as Christian altogether.

Viktor Orbán with Pope Francis. Photo: Facebook.

Viktor Orbán with Pope Francis. Photo: Facebook.

In Hungary, references to Christianity are merely cultural ones, closely tied with how conservative Hungarians like to imagine their nation and their national identity. It is also worth noting that in interwar Hungary, where the regime of Regent Miklós Horthy called itself “Christian Conservative,” being “Christian” in the political context was usually tantamount to being antisemitic and legislating Jews (and liberal opponents of the regime) out of public life and positions of significance in the community.

But more recently, Mr. Orbán’s supporters and Fidesz columnists have taken to attacking Pope Francis with vehemence for what they perceive as his liberalism on issues of migration, the poor, the marginalized and social justice. Referring to the regime as “Christian” and liberal critics as being “anti-Christian” is beginning to sound awkward. Zsolt Bayer, for instance, called Pope Francis “a demented old man” and a “crook.”

Mr. Orbán’s visit with Pope Francis and his decision to post a photo to Facebook was perhaps intended to re-affirm his regime’s connection to Christianity. But Mr. Orbán’s Facebook fans thought otherwise and could not stop attacking the Pope. The photo was shared almost five hundred times and was “liked” by 9,000 on the social media site.

“On the photo, we see one of the most Christian Europeans, who is defending Europe from the Muslims. And next to him is Pope Francis”–writes Dezső.

“This pope is the new Judas,” commented László.

When it was suggested by one user that Pope Francis was simply following the teachings of Jesus by welcoming the marginalized, one of Mr. Orbán’s supporters was quick to respond:

“In today’s world, fuck the teachings of Jesus.”

Mr. Orbán’s Facebook page is also followed by many non-Hungarians, including a user called Stefano, who wrote: “In this pic the real Pope is Orbán …the other is a Soros Puppet…”

“If I had a horn, I would hit the old idiot in the head,” added Lehel Pál, in his reference to Pope Francis.

“We need to be careful with this guy who is currently in the status of Pope. He was lifted to this position by Papa Soros and his network,” opined Miklós.

So why should one spend time reading and translating the vicious comments posted by Mr. Orbán’s supporters? I would suggest that this provides the most concrete evidence of how incredibly effective the recent hate campaign waged by popular publicists close to the government has been in terms of fomenting a vile and  truly visceral hatred of the current Catholic pontiff among ordinary Fidesz supporters.

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