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The fruits of Pope Francis' "smile diplomacy

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Pablo Blanco Sarto

Professor at the University of Navarra and author of several books on Benedict XVI.

Reading the body language of meeting between Viktor Orbán and the Holy Father, one can deduce that there was some distance

"If we want fraternity on earth, we cannot lose sight of heaven," Pope Francis told representatives of other religions from Budapest. The successor of Peter joined the G20 2021 Interreligious Forum on September 11, a fateful date with traces of fanaticism. In his message to the forum, which this year was held in Bologna, Francis stressed that "it is good that you have gathered precisely with the intention of overcoming particularisms and sharing ideas and hopes". In this way, we must help each other "to free the horizon of the sacred from the dark clouds of violence and fundamentalism".

No hatred. "Yes, true religiosity consists in adoring God and loving one's neighbor." The Pope lamented that "today this sounds, unfortunately, like a distant dream," the dream of peace, and lamented that "in the last 40 years there have been almost 3,000 attacks and some 5,000 murders in various places of worship." So violence does not have only a presumably religious origin, but rather the other way around. But there remained the guilt of one or the other: "Those who blaspheme the holy name of God by persecuting their brothers find funding all too easily". The solution also lies in reason, as his predecessor, Benedict XVI, repeated. "For God is not the God of war, but of peace."

But the trip also had an ecumenical significance, in a place that is a crossroads of different Christian confessions. Pope Francis' "smile diplomacy" seems to have borne some fruit. Reading the body language of meeting between the Calvinist president and the Pope on Sept. 12, one gathers that there was some distance. But suddenly Francis' smile and outstretched hand broke the icy climax. Glances met and the rest was dialogue, even though there was no official speech .

In fact, the meeting lasted several minutes longer than the protocol. However, the expectations of the meeting, precisely revolved around the issue of migrants, the positions of Pope Francis and the Hungarian Prime Minister differ greatly in this regard. Orbán applies strict border controls while the Pope calls for a first reception in the name of human dignity. However - such is diplomacy, including Vatican diplomacy - there was one topic in common: the family and the environment. That is why the declaration does not mention whether the question of the reception of immigrants was discussed.

However, after the meeting with the Pope, the Hungarian authorities met with high-ranking Vatican officials to discuss other issues. One of lime and another of sand. This is also ecumenism: to collaborate in everything that can be collaborated, while at the same time making clear the points that require rapprochement. After the quotation, the Calvinist Orbán (although his wife and five children are Catholics) published a brief message on his social networks: "I asked Pope Francis not to let Christian Hungary perish".

Perhaps the answer came from the neighboring country: if we Christians are united, we are more credible. Before the representatives of the various Christian churches in Slovakia, he reminded them that "it is difficult to call for a Europe more fruitful for the Gospel without worrying about the fact that we are not yet fully united among ourselves". We must "cultivate this spiritual tradition, which Europe so badly needs", and not just a mere "functional programmatic efficiency". Words in the direction of Brussels? It is difficult to know, but the ecumenical echo of these words could come soon.