Mixed messages for migrants from Hungary’s hierarchy

A Hungarian bishop has challenged Pope Francis’ appeal for Catholics to open their communities as sanctuaries for refugees from the Middle East.

Szeged-Csanád Bishop Laszlo Kiss-Rigo, whose diocese in southern Hungary is experiencing some of Europe’s heaviest migrant flows, denies that most of those arriving are refugees. “This is an invasion,” he said, “they come here with cries of ‘Allahu Akbar’. They want to take over.”

Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban drew criticism for saying that the settlement of Muslim refugees could undermine Europe’s Christian character, but Dr Kiss-Rigo backed him, saying the migrants threaten Europe’s “Christian, universal values”.

Arguing that the Pope “doesn’t know the situation”, Dr Kiss-Rigo said most of those who have come from Syria are wealthy and leave rubbish behind them, refusing food when offered. “Most of them behave in a way that is very arrogant and cynical”, he said.

The Archbishop of Budapest-Esztergom, Cardinal Peter Erdö, has meanwhile argued that words attributed to him have been taken out of context. 

Having previously said the Church is present wherever it is needed, but that in Hungary it cannot accommodate migrants as if it did so “we would be human traffickers”, the cardinal has clarified that Hungary’s bishops designated two buildings to accommodate refugees, but legal obstacles have prevented them from being used. 

Praising Pannohalma’s Benedictines for taking in refugees, saying “this is also a credible measure of our Church”, he stressed that “the Church is making various efforts in order to help refugees, such as food aid, medical attendance, psychological attendance for the children”. 

The Church is also working with refugees through the Hungarian Maltese Charity Service, the Community of Sant’Egidio and the Caritas Hungarica, he added.