Pope Francis To Meet Orban At Start Of Trip To Central Europe.

Pope Francis will begin his first foreign trip since undergoing intestinal surgery beginning with a short stop in Budapest where he is scheduled to meet far-right populist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Francis will spend only seven hours in Budapest on September 12 and only a half hour meeting with Orban in Budapest's Fine Arts Museum with Hungarian President Janos Ader also present. The meeting could turn into an awkward encounter between the pope, who consistently urges governments to help people of all religions fleeing war and poverty, and Orban, a self-styled defender against migrants trying to enter Europe. The Argentinian-born pope, whose family emigrated from Italy, often advocates for migrants and castigates leaders who turn their backs on refugees. That contrasts with Orban's hard-line stance against immigration, which sees him frequently depicting his government as a defender of “Christian civilization” against migration from Muslim-majority countries. In 2015, he rejected proposals to settle refugees from the Middle East and Africa in Hungary and erected a fence along Hungary's southern border to keep out asylum seekers. Francis’s short stay in Hungary will be followed by an official visit to Slovakia lasting more than two days. Trip organizers insisted Francis isn’t snubbing Hungary, saying he was only invited to celebrate Mass to close out an international religious conference on September 12. Orban, who is of Calvinist Protestant background, and his wife, who is a Catholic, are to attend the open-air Mass on the capital's Heroes' Square. Around 75,000 people have registered to attend. Large screens and loudspeakers have been placed along a main boulevard near the square to allow others to follow the ceremony. The 84-year-old pontiff's 34th foreign trip comes two months after a colon operation and a 10-day convalescence in hospital. He has recently resumed holding public and private audiences and says he is now living a “totally normal life," but he is still on medication and cannot stand for long periods of time.

With reporting by AP and AFP

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