Hungarian Christian Democratic leader rejects Pope’s position on migrants

August 17, 2016

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Pope Francis meeting refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos

“Identifying with sufferers definitely detracts from (the Pope’s) other responsibilities which we find important, namely the protection against migrant flows. We are, of course, not very happy about this.” – Péter Harrach, KDNP faction leader

Even though the Christian Democratic People’s Party (Kereszténydemokrata Néppárt – KDNP) likes to present itself as the savior of Christianity in Hungary, its parliamentary faction leader, Péter Harrach, had some interesting things to say about Pope Francis in an interview given to Hungarian literary website gondola.hu.

Since the start of the migration crisis, the Pope often reminds Catholics that helping refugees is a moral obligation. Last September he called on every Catholic parish to take in one of the thousands of families coming to the region to flee conflict and poverty. This April, he even visited the Greek island of Lesbos and its refugee camps, taking three families back to the Vatican with him.

Apparently, members of the Hungarian government think otherwise. The propaganda campaign against refugees and asylum-seekers is in full swing, and radical journalist Zsolt Bayer even went as far as calling the Pope a “villain” in the Gábor Széles-owned print daily Magyar Hírlap.

Migrants or people in need?

In his interview, Harrach (whose KDNP has its alliance with Fidesz to thank for its presence in parliament) claims that whereas Pope Francis speaks of people in need and those persecuted in their homes, the Hungarian party is speaking out against the “migrant flows endangering our country”.

“Neither of these opinions is exclusive but both are emphatic,” he said.

Harrach claims most of those arriving to the European Union are economic migrants. According to him, most migrants “don’t know tolerance, believe in an ideology of conquest and cannot be integrated”.

The politician, a Catholic, thinks the words of Pope Francis concerning refugees are not a part of “official church doctrine”, meaning Catholics are not obliged to identify with it.

“This cannot alter their faith in the institute of the church, but such a rude labelling coming from the outside can hurt them with a good reason,” Harrach said. “For the Pope is mainly a spiritual and not a political leader. Identifying with sufferers definitely suppresses his other responsibilities which we find important, namely the protection against migrant flows. We are, of course, not very happy about this.”

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Péter Harrach, parliamentary faction leader of the Christian Democrats. Photo: kdnp.hu

The parliamentary faction leader thinks Pope Francis identifies with migrants because he used to work in South America and because he is a Jesuit, an order that “considers dialogue and cooperation as its main job instead of fighting”.

Answering the question why the words of the Pope are so popular “in liberal circles”, Harrach said: “The Pontiff’s words can often be misunderstood.

“When he said ‘who am I to judge homosexuals’, he also added he did not like the gay lobby. Media only quoted the first half of the sentence, suggesting the Church has changed its views on homosexuals. The Pope’s words on refugees are not so one-sided as suggested by the liberal media either.”

Harrach also quoted the Pope’s message on the 102th World Refugee Day, supporting Francis’ ideas.

“ . . . they responsibly assume their obligations towards those who receive them, gratefully respecting the material and spiritual heritage of the host country, obeying its laws and helping with its needs.”