“Today, three out of every four Christians throughout the world are suffering persecution, and the western world knows little about all this”, he said.

“We would like to amplify the voices of the persecuted to the greatest extent possible, and make the atrocities they have suffered known”, the Minister said, adding: “Hungary is also doing its utmost to draw attention to the situation of Middle Eastern Christians at international forums”.

Mr. Balog also spoke about the fact that since the establishment of the Deputy State Secretariat for the Assistance of Persecuted Christians last year, the Government has provided 6 million euros in aid to Christian communities in the Middle East and Africa.

He pointed out that 6700 foreign students are studying in Hungary within the framework of the Stipendium Hungaricum scholarship programme launched in 2013, more than half of whom come from Muslim countries.

“The scholarships are providing Hungary with the opportunity to make new friends, and to make the work a more peaceful place as a result”, he noted.

In the Basilica, the students took part in a Latin mass, which was celebrated by Cardinal, Primate and Archbishop of Esztergom and Budapest Péter Erdős, who welcomed the student and highlighted: Hungarian Catholics, who lived in seclusion from the international church during the long years of communism, have a great need to forge links with catholic Christians from other nations.

“It is important for today’s generation to experience the fact that we are all part of a single Christian family, with a common faith and a common mission”, he said.

“We, Hungarian Christians, welcome you with great affection, and are awaiting you in our communities”, and “we are glad to offer you the pastoral assistance of our preachers in any life situation”, he said.

In his sermon, the Archbishop recalled that Saint Stephen was Hungary’s first Christian king, who organised the church, founded monasteries and diocese, and introduced new laws in the spirit of Christianity.

“It was in his honour that Saint Stephen’s basilica was built, and it is here that we preserve the most important relic of the Hungarian nation. To us, Saint Stephen symbolises our loyalty to our Christian roots, and his example shows us how to live our lives based on the Christian faith”, Cardinal Erdős said.

The Archbishop also mentioned that in the Catholic Church, this day is the feat of the three archangels, St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael. In Christian tradition St. Michael is not only the prince of the heavenly host, but also the protector of Christians and the people of Israel.

With regard to St. Gabriel, the Cardinal said that according to legend he brought the Holy Crown of Hungary to St. Stephen form the Pope. This is why the statue of the Archangel Gabriel can be seen on Heroes’ Square in Budapest, on top of the Millennium Monument, and why we revere him as the guardian angel of Budapest, he explained. 

St. Raphael is the patron saint of travellers to distant shores, Archbishop Erdős said, asking for the Archangel’s blessing for the life and studies of the young students who had arrived in Budapest from far off countries.

The goal of the scholarship programme is for young people from the Middle East to return home with the knowledge they have gained in Hungary and contribute to the reorganisation of their communities in regions that have been ravaged by armed conflict.

With the help of Hungary’s Churches, the students are also taking part in a pastoral programme to enable them to preserve their religious identities and their commitment to the lands of their birth.

The majority of scholarship students have come from Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Nigeria, and during the next twelve months will be studying at the Budapest University of technology and Economics, the University of Debrecen, the Liszt Ferenc University of Music, the University of Miskolc, the Pázmány Péter Catholic University and the Pécs University of Science.


Source: MTI