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Papa Francis has warned about the growing nationalism trend in Europe during the first leg of his three-day visit to Hungary. The Catholic leader also called for a change in Budapest’s immigration policy.

The spiritual leader of Catholics and head of the Vatican, Pope Francis, said that the essence of Christian values lies in kindness and friendship, which is also valid for immigrants and refugees, and told Hungary to “accept foreigners as friends.”

Pope Francis warned of the dangers of growing nationalism in Europe during his visit, his first since tensions between Russia and Ukraine began.

During the first day of his visit, Pope Francis met with Foreign and Trade Minister Peter Szijjarto, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and President Katalin Novak. Speaking at a historic monastery, he emphasized the importance of European Union (EU) values, calling for a rejection of populism, strict nationalist interests, and a more humane approach to immigrants.

Pope Francis said that the EU is composed of integrated parts that must be united, much like the bridges in Budapest, and urged the rediscovery of the European spirit. He referenced the words of Hungary’s first king, who said that if a country has only one language and one tradition, it is incomplete and weak, and therefore advised kindly accepting and honoring foreigners so that they too may choose to stay in the country rather than elsewhere.

Pope Francis emphasized that kindness and friendship are at the center of Christian values, which also apply to immigrants and refugees. He called for a more humane approach towards them.

Hungarian President Katalin Novak also called for unity, highlighting articles in the constitution that emphasized the need to act together to protect individuals.

President Novak called on Pope Francis to intervene in ending the war in Ukraine. “Talk to Kiev, Moscow, Washington, Brussels, Budapest– whoever is interested, there will be no peace without conversation. Here in Budapest, we ask you to take personal action for a fair peace as soon as possible,” Novak said.

Pope Francis also called for creative efforts to achieve peace and to suppress “war actors.” Since Russia’s occupation of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Francis has called for peace in almost every speech he has given. He said that he plans to go on a peace mission to Kiev and Moscow.

86-year-old Pope Francis, who visited Hungary for the first time since being hospitalized for bronchitis in March, will stay in the country for three days. He will meet with refugees, young people, and children tomorrow.

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