ROME — Pope Francis announced on Sunday a fall 2021 trip to Slovakia and Hungary, two of the four countries of the Visegrad group, an important conservative political bloc in Central Europe.
“I am happy to announce that from the next 12 to 15 September, God willing, I will travel to Slovakia to make a pastoral visit,” the pope told pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for his weekly Angelus message.
“First, I will celebrate the concluding Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest,” the pontiff continued, in reference to an international event sponsored by the Catholic Church in Hungary.
“I heartfully thank those who are preparing this journey and I am praying for them,” the pope said. Let us all pray for this journey and for the people who are working to organize it.”
Not long after the conclusion of the pope’s address, the director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, confirmed the news.
“As announced by the Holy Father during this morning’s Angelus, having accepted the invitation from the civil Authorities and the Episcopal Conferences,” Bruni said, “on Sunday, 12 September 2021, Pope Francis will be in Budapest for the celebration of Holy Mass on the conclusion of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress.”
Subsequently, “from 12 to 15 September 2021, he will travel to Slovakia, visiting the cities of Bratislava, Prešov, Košice e Šaštin. The program of the Journey will be published in due course,” he stated.
In February 2020, Hungarian President János Áder visited the Vatican to commemorate 100 years of diplomatic relations between Hungary and the Holy See, at which time he extended an invitation to the pope to take part in the 2021 International Eucharistic Congress.
Slovakia and Hungary, together with the other Visegrad nations of Poland and the Czech Republic, have been staunch ideological allies of the Catholic Church on a number of key moral and political issues involving the family, education, gender theory, and respect for human life at all its stages.
Hungary has stood out in particular for its unapologetic defense of persecuted Christians and its approach of providing aid for them to remain in their homelands.
In 2016, the Hungarian government established a Deputy State Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians, making it the only nation in the world with a department of this nature.