San Francisco Chronicle

Pope preaches openness


Pope Francis urged Hungary on Sunday to “extend its arms towards everyone,” in a veiled critique of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s anti-immigratio­n policies, as the pontiff opened a visit to Central Europe in his first big internatio­nal outing since undergoing intestinal surgery in July.

Francis, 84, spent just seven hours in Budapest before arriving later Sunday in neighborin­g Slovakia to start a fourday tour. The lopsided itinerary suggested that Francis wanted to avoid giving Orban — the type of populist nationalis­t he frequently criticizes — the political boost that comes with hosting a pope for a proper state visit ahead of elections in Hungary next spring.

Francis did meet upon arrival with Orban, whose refugee policies clash with the pope’s call to welcome and integrate those seeking better lives in Europe. After the meeting, Orban wrote on Facebook: “I asked Pope Francis not to let Christian Hungary perish.”

Orban has frequently depicted his government as a defender of Christian civilizati­on in Europe and a bulwark against migration from Muslim-majority countries.

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