From 5th to 12th September 2021, Budapest (Hungary), hosted the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress (IEC). I was among eight priests representing Uganda, and used the occasion to acquaint myself with the Hungarian Catholic Church.
The history of Hungary is linked to Christianity for over 1000 years, with King St. Steven acknowledged as being the Father of the nation. Hungary is one of the countries with the legacy of the communist past. But today it enjoys a revival; with 73.4% of Hungarians being Christians, including 54% Roman Catholics (2019 census). Hungary’s national anthem is a prayer for God’s protection. President János Áder, publicly professes his Catholic faith. He fully participated in the organisation of the IEC 2021. Hungary first hosted IEC in 1938.
Hungary’s 2011 Constitution acknowledges the nation’s Christian legacy, and promotes the culture of life. It explicitly defines marriage as being a covenant between a man and a woman and the family as comprising of a woman as the mother and a man as the father. It, thus, effectively bans adoptions by same-sex partners and complicates adoptions by single people. The Hungarian government generously supports Church-founded schools and gives financial incentives for families to have more children.
True to faith
This contrasts with some countries, where many politicians who claim to be Catholic are promoting abortion and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and gender ideologies. I Timothy 4:1-3 talks about Christians who will depart from the faith and follow false doctrines and miracles of the devil; heaping up teachers unto themselves and thus turning away from the truth. The different kinds of scandals in the Church are attributed to decades of liberal thinking that defies traditional Church teaching and promotes liberal theology. As a result, many Christians who devoutly believe in the fundamentals of the faith are often persecuted.
Ecstasy is no guarantee of true faith. Many claim to have been born again, or pride in being Catholics, but make poor show of mature Christian discipleship. Christians must follow Christ in thought, word and deed, without bending the knee to political correctness or militant secularism. Benedict XVI refers to them as “political minority”, or the “Remnant” (Anawin) of Psalm 149:4. The minority and humble Jews who received the Messiah, became a strong the salt of the earth and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16, John 1:12). If well-organised, Christians can have a major impact on politics and society.
IEC is a gathering of Roman Catholic clergy, religious, and laity to bear witness to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and seek the best means to spread its knowledge and devotion throughout the world. The “Real Presence” is a very principal dogma of the Catholic Faith and the most precious treasure that Christ has left to His Church as the centre of worship and as the source of Christian piety (Matthew 28:20). The first International Eucharistic Congress was held at Lille, France, in 1881. The 53rd will be held in Ecuador in 2024.
“All my springs are in You”, drawn from Psalm 87:7, was the theme of the 52nd IEC. “May the Lord God grant us to the capacity to feel in these days that Christ is with us in the Eucharist… God is not dead; the Eucharist overcomes every loneliness, every distance, every indifference.” Said Cardinal Péter Erdő, Primate of Hungary, in his opening remarks. He called upon the youth to remain full members. “The Church is the true youth of the world because she preserves the sacrament of the Body of Christ.”
Metropolitan Hilarion testified that Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believers are united in the belief in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. During the closing Mass, Pope Francis urged the Hungarian Church to embrace unity in diversity.