Pope Francis called for an end to anti-Semitism on Sunday during an unusually short trip to Hungary and warned that prejudice against Jews was a “security that must not burn”.
“I think of the threat of anti-Semitism that still lurks in Europe and elsewhere,” the Pope told one ecumenical meeting Christian and Jewish leader in the capital Budapest.
“This is a fuse that shouldn’t burn. And the best way to defuse it is to work together positively and promote brotherhood,” he added.
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Francis spent seven hours in Budapest on his first international outing since his bowel surgery in July, chairing a long mass in front of a crowd that organizers said reached 100,000 before setting off on a four-day tour of neighboring Slovakia .
He met briefly with Hungary’s populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose tough refugee policy collides with that of Francis. The Pope has previously said that migrants and refugees looking for a better life in Europe should be welcome. He has also criticized the “national populism” promoted by governments like the Hungarian one.
Orban, who has been in power since 2010, angered Hungary’s Jewish community in 2017 after he uses an image of US financier George Soros, who is Jewish, in an anti-immigration campaign. At that time he rejected calls from the Jewish community to remove the posters.
Under Orban’s leadership, despite widespread condemnation both domestically and abroad, Hungary passed a law aimed at evicting a university founded by Soros. Orban had alleged that the Central European University violated regulations in the award of diplomas, which the school rejected.
The Hungarian head of state was also widely criticized for his comments at the rally in March 2018, where he told supporters: “We are fighting an enemy who is different from us … Not open, but hidden; not straightforward, but cunning; not honest, but low; not national, but international; does not believe in work, but speculates with money; has no home of its own, but the whole world feels heard. “
Orban has repeatedly denied allegations of anti-Semitism. In May he said they were “ridiculous” and called Hungary a “more than fair and correct country in this regard,” according to Reuters.
The prime minister has also claimed that Jews should feel safe under his government, which he believes has “zero tolerance” of anti-Semitism.
After meeting Francis, Orban wrote on Facebook that he had asked him “not to let Christian Hungary go under”.
In May, Human Rights Watch warns of an increase in reported hate incidents by Jews in many European countries. The organization said Jews in Europe “felt increasingly unsafe” amid reports of defaced and attacked synagogues.
Also the Anti-Defamation League, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism recorded an increase in verbal and physical attacks against Jews in North America, Europe, the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa following an outbreak of fighting between Israel and the militant Hamas rulers in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.