By Weil, Lynne
National Catholic Reporter , Vol. 32, No. 40
BUDAPEST, Hungary - Pope John Paul II spread a message of unceasing hope during his stay in Hungary Sept. 6 and 7. Aware of the current atmosphere of despair facing many Hungarians, the pope came straight to the point during his first speech, in a welcoming ceremony in Budapest.
"Dear people of Hungary," he said, standing on the airport tarmac and facing a bank of television cameras, "let no one be discouraged by the difficulties of the present; and let no one underestimate the results achieved so far. After the tragic events of this century, which is coming to an end, we should not be surprised if the rebirth and hoped-for development require time."
To increase the impact of his message, the pope pronounced certain sections of his initial address in Hungarian and continued the practice throughout the trip. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls noted that Pope John Paul spent the weeks before his trip listening for hours to tapes in Hungarian to perfect his pronunciation.
The pope read the concluding passages of his initial address in English, even though German is more widely spoken in Hungary. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said this was done to avoid negative associations with Germany and problems it visited on Hungary earlier this century.
Hungarians lacked the sense of euphoria and possibility that marked the pope's last Hungarian trip in August 1991, when the country was emerging from the Cold War. Economic troubles and disappointment with the political leadership, composed mostly of former communists, have caused a pervasive sense of pessimism.
The people's resignation was reflected in statistics issued by the Hungarian bishops' conference in a 72-page pastoral letter two weeks before the pope arrived. The bishops pointed out that the number of people in Hungary living below the official poverty line has more than tripled in the last three years to 3. …