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Bishops call for peace as war rages in Ukraine

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As war rages in Ukraine, peace was the central theme of a just-concluded meeting of leaders of central and eastern European bishops’ conferences in Budapest. They gathered in the Hungarian capital shortly after the Hungarian Prime Minister opened a memorial center for the late Cardinal József Mindszenty.

By Stefan J. Bos

The Hungarian Catholic Episcopal Conference said its leader András Veres conveyed the message of the Second Vatican Council to a two-day regional episcopal conference in Budapest. He says: “Peace is not the simple absence of war or the simple maintenance of a balance of power between forces, nor can it be imposed on the dictates of absolute power. It is called, at justly, a work of righteousness.”

And Michael Wallace Banach, the Apostolic Nuncio to Hungary, noted that the Church is a peace-loving institution. The Vatican representative also wondered: “What does the Church do for peace? adding, “it’s a question that needs to resonate in people’s hearts.”

His appeal prompted Gintaras Grusas, the Archbishop of Vilnius, to ask everyone to “pray for peace” in neighboring Ukraine and the rest of Europe. This call to prayer was appreciated by Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, who stressed the importance of peace.

Conference participants also celebrated Mass in Budapest’s famous St. Stephen’s Basilica by Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdő and met with Hungarian President Katalin Novák. They prayed in a country where authorities say around 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees have arrived from neighboring war-torn Ukraine. Although most pass through Hungary, thousands have also been housed here, with the support of churches.

New center commemorating Cardinal Mindszenty

The rally came after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Sunday opened a new center commemorating the late Hungarian Cardinal József Mindszenty in the Hungarian town of Zalaegerszeg.

It also came as Hungary remembered the crushed 1956 revolution against Soviet rule in which Cardinal Mindszenty played a vital role.

The Prime Minister regards Mindszenty as a symbol of uncompromising opposition to fascism during World War II and communism in Hungary. After eight years in prison for his faith and political views, Mindszenty was released in the 1956 revolution and granted political asylum at the United States Embassy in Budapest, where he lived for fifteen years. He was finally allowed to leave Hungary in 1971 and died in exile in 1975 in Vienna, Austria.