Pope Francis urged Hungary on Sunday to “extend its arms towards everyone,” in a veiled critique of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s anti-migrant policies as the pontiff opened a four-day visit to Central Europe, his first big international outing since undergoing intestinal surgery in July.
Francis, 84, appeared in good form during his short visit to Budapest, presiding over a lengthy Mass and standing and waving to crowds during a jaunt in his open-sided popemobile. He used a golf cart to avoid walking long distances indoors and confessed at one point that he had to sit because “I’m not 15 anymore.” But otherwise he kept up the typical grueling pace of a papal trip despite his ongoing recovery.
Francis only spent seven hours in Budapest before moving on Sunday afternoon to a four-day tour of neighboring Slovakia. The lopsided itinerary suggested that Francis wanted to avoid giving Orban — the type of populist nationalist Francis frequently criticizes — the political boost that comes with hosting a pope for a proper state visit ahead of elections next spring.