Katalin Novak - Photo: Facebook

Novak praises pontiff as ‘man of peace’

President Katalin Novak has called Pope Francis a "man of peace" and said she hoped that his visit to Budapest at the weekend would restore a sense of hope after the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, in an interview published in Magyar Kurir on Tuesday.

“The Bible teaches that the future belongs to men of peace. Francis is such a man, and so are we Hungarians,” she said.

It appears that Pope Francis aims to meet as many Hungarians and real communities as possible during his visit between April 28-30, she said.

She noted that during his visit to Budapest during the Eucharistic Congress last September, Francis highlighted the importance of cooperation between the churches.

Regarding the war in Ukraine, Novak said the priority there was to “assure victims of our support, condemn aggression and find a way to peace.” Her visit to Kyiv last November was such a show of support, she said.

At the same time, she noted that the rights of Hungarians had been curbed in Ukraine recently, which she called “unacceptable”. The issue should not be “swept under the carpet”, she warned. Hungarians living in Ukraine should be able to make a living in their own community and homeland, using their mother tongue, she said.

On finding a way to peace in Ukraine, Novak praised Francis’s Easter message in which he said that he stood by Ukrainians under attack “but will not forget or give up on Russian people either.”

To find solutions, dialogue must be fostered between warring parties and the forces supporting them, she said. “That needs, first of all, a strong decision to end the war,” she said.

“It seems clear to me that the war must not end with Russia achieving its aims, even though they have not declared a concrete goal. It cannot end with Russia allowed to stay in Ukrainian territories,” she said.

At the same time, a growing number of countries getting involved in the conflict could lead to escalation, she said.

“War will not necessarily stop at the borders,” and its spilling over into Hungary should be avoided at all costs, she said.

Commenting on the debate regarding teachers’ wages, Novak said the profession’s prestige should be boosted to draw young people and to win back those who have left it.

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