LGBTQ+ Catholics in Hungary Hope Pope Francis’ Visit Will Help Build Tolerance

Pope Francis during his visit to Hungary in 2021

LGBTQ+ Catholics in Hungary have expressed hope that a visit by Pope Francis beginning today will bring a message of acceptance to a nation where anti-LGBTQ+ policies are intensifying, often with Catholic support.

Francis visits Hungary today through Sunday, April 30th, which will include a Mass outside the nation’s Parliament in Budapest. In recent years, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has pursued laws targeting the rights of LGBTQ+ people and their families, as well as women and migrants, frequently citing the nation’s Catholic history as his reasoning. Ahead of the papal visit, Reuters reported:

“Akos Marco Modolo, 28, a human rights and LGBT activist who is gay and has been a practicing Catholic all his life, said many LGBT people who are also Christian believers feel shame about their identity and ‘feel God does not love them’.

“‘Luckily, I have never felt that myself. I have always felt God loves me and has no problem with me being gay,’ he said in a tiny flat he rents in Budapest, a few steps from a red-brick church where he goes to pray.

“He said his faith in God helped him overcome hardships when he felt lonely in his former conservative Catholic community in the small farming town of Mezobereny where he grew up.”

Modolo will attend the papal mass on April 30th, and he hopes that Pope Francis’ visit will strike a contrast with Orban’s approach to issues of gender and sexuality, which he argues has created a “rift in Hungarian society caused by what Modolo called the government’s anti-LGBT ‘hate campaign.’” He commented:

“‘[Francis] is my favourite pope of all … and his message for me is really heart-warming, not only with respect to the LGBT issue but also on migration.'”

While the Hungarian government has embraced a hardline negative stance towards the queer community, this stance does not reflect the views of most Hungarians, according to Reuters:

“Hungary has never allowed gay marriage but recognises civil unions. Some 56% of Hungarians were found to be accepting of homosexuality in a 2021 survey by the Zavecz Research institute.”

Hungary’s bishops, however, have been largely supportive of these LGBTQ-negative policies. The Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference released a joint statement along with several Protestant and Jewish groups in late 2021 opposing LGBTQ-positive legislation, which cited remarks from Pope Francis following a September 2021 visit to the country where he defended some legal rights for queer couples, while clearly objecting to marriage equality.

After Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski of Krakow in Poland called the LGBTQ+ community “a rainbow disease” in 2019, the head of the Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Bishop András Veres of Győr, expressed his support for the Polish bishop.

Pope Francis offers a contrasting vision of the church from that to which Hungarian prelates and politicians adhere, particularly in how the church interacts with marginalized people. The pope’s condemnation of anti-LGBTQ+ criminalization laws earlier this year had a worldwide impact, giving hope to LGBTQ+ people. During this second papal visit to Hungary, Francis has another opportunity to further express his solidarity with the queer community at a time in which they face increased political pressure and social stigmatization. Even a few positive words could help LGBTQ+ Catholics like Akos Marco Modolo move their country closer to the just and inclusive world which they and Pope Francis alike seek.

Andru Zodrow (he/him), New Ways Ministry, April 28, 2023

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