In many ways, Hungary’s Viktor Orban has emerged as the leading Christian statesman in Europe. While many talk about helping the family, Orban’s policies have actually helped increase the number of Hungarians getting married and the number of Hungarian babies being born. And while many talk of helping persecuted Christians, Hungary has actually set up a fund to help. When Pope Francis visited the rebuilt Syriac Catholic cathedral in Qaraqosh– the largest Christian church in Iraq–he was visiting a church rebuilt in part by donations from that Hungarian fund.
It seemed odd, then, that Pope Francis stressed in his press conference on the plane flight back from Iraq that his visit to Budapest in September to say the closing Mass at the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress would not be a state visit to Hungary. The unavoidable conclusion was that Pope Francis wanted to visit Hungary but not its Prime Minister.
And the reason for the Pope’s apparent reluctance to see Orban is clear: Pope Francis wants Europe to welcome mass immigration, and Viktor Orban does not. Indeed, Orban’s success in reversing a declining European birthrate that Pope Francis has also decried suggests that the prospect of unlimited mass immigration might be one of the factors depressing the European birthrate. People may be more likely to have confidence in the future, and to express that confidence by having children, when they believe their children will be the ones shaping that future, and not the millions who would come to Europe if they could.
I hope I am wrong about this, and that Orban and Francis have a long and fruitful meeting in Budapest in September. As a Catholic, I obviously think that the Calvinist Orban could learn something from the Pope. But as a Westerner, I also think that the Pope could learn something about what it takes to preserve the nations of the West from Orban.