Pope Francis addresses poor people and refugees at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Budapest, Hungary on April 29, 2023. VATICAN MEDIA

By Catholic News Agency

April 30, 2023

Jesus came to bring “glad tidings to the poor,” Pope Francis recalled Saturday during a meeting with poor people and refugees in Budapest.

“Those in need — let us never forget — are at the heart of the Gospel,” he insisted.

Speaking on the second day of his three-day visit to Hungary’s capital, the pope addressed some 600 people, most of them refugees from Ukraine aided by the Caritas charity, gathered inside St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church. Local authorities estimated another 1,000 people gathered outside the church.

The pope evoked the example of Hungary’s beloved 13th-century princess-saint, known for her piety and heroic service to the poor, saying Elizabeth spoke “the language of charity.”

Referring to the statue of Elizabeth he had passed in Rózsák Square before he entered the church, the pope recalled how the saint “not only sold her possessions but also spent her life serving the poor, lepers, and the sick, personally caring for them, even carrying them on her own shoulders. That is the language of charity.”

Pope Francis thanked the Church in Hungary for its “generous and wide-ranging service to charity.”

“Thank you too, for having welcomed — not only with generosity but also with enthusiasm — so many refugees from Ukraine,” he said. More than 1.5 million Ukrainians have crossed into Hungary since the beginning of the war more than a year ago.

Francis was greeted at the meeting by people who shared testimonies of their struggles, including a Ukrainian family that has found refuge in Hungary. The oldest two children of the family, on accordion and saxophone, performed an Argentinean tango for the pope.

“The memory of love … rekindles hope and inspires people to embark upon a new journey in life,” the pope reflected, responding to the testimony given by the father of the family, Oleg, who was welcomed in Hungary when he worked there years ago as a cook.

“Even amid pain and suffering, once we have received the balm of love, we find the courage needed to keep moving forward,” the Holy Father continued.

“We find the strength to believe that all is not lost and that a different future is possible. The love that Jesus gives us and commands us to practice can help to uproot the evils of indifference and selfishness from society, from our cities and the places where we live, and to rekindle hope for a new, more just and fraternal world, where all can feel at home.”

The pope also responded to a testimony given by a permanent deacon and his wife, who began a ministry for the homeless and needy.

“Sadly, many people, even here, are literally homeless. Many of our more vulnerable sisters and brothers — living alone, struggling with various physical and mental disabilities, devastated by the poison of drugs, released from prison or abandoned because they are elderly — are experiencing severe material, cultural and spiritual poverty; they have no roof over their heads and no home in which to live,” the pope lamented.

The deacon had explained how it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit that led him and his wife to begin their ministry, and the pope praised them for this.

Francis said he was “moved to hear that, together with their material needs, you are attentive to their personal stories and their wounded dignity, caring for them in their loneliness and their struggle to feel loved and welcomed in the world. [The deacon’s wife] Anna told us that, ‘Jesus, the living Word, heals their hearts and relationships, because people are rebuilt from within;’ once they realize that in God’s eyes they are beloved and blessed, they are reborn.”

“This,” the pope said, “is a lesson for the whole Church: It is not enough to provide bread to fill stomachs; we need to fill people’s hearts!”

Charity, he said, is “much more than material and social assistance. It has to do with the whole person; it strives to put people back on their feet with the love of Jesus: a love that helps them to recover their beauty and their dignity.”

The pope concluded by reiterating his call to speak, like St. Elizabeth of Hungary, the “language of charity.”

“My hope and prayer, then, is that you will always spread the fragrance of charity in the Church and in your country,” he said.

Earlier Saturday, Pope Francis met privately with children cared for at Blessed László Batthyány-Strattmann Institute in Budapest. On Saturday afternoon he was scheduled to travel to a sports arena in the city for a meeting with young people.


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