Secular Hungary

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Kissing the ring

While the pope, XVI. Benedict is busy touring Britain this week, the week before he received the Hungarian president, Pál Schmitt, whom elderly non-Hungarians may know from his carreer in fencing a couple of dacades ago. Later, at the beginning of the 1980s, he made a career in sports diplomacy (being the head of the Hungarian Olympic Committee (MOB) also at the time when the committee decided to boycott the Olympic Games in 1984), and in hotellerie: he was the managing director of the Hotel Astoria in Budapest. About 10 years ago, he became a face of Fidesz, and they -- having won 2/3s of the seats in parliament by receving 53% of the votes --  made him president (which is more or less a representative function, and even Schmitt's critics agree that he is a handsome clothes hanger).
Anyway, he's visited the pope on September 10th, and the two of them had a look at various European countries' constitutions, found out that in 8 of them the church is explicitly included, and Schmitt 'proudly announced ' (these were his words) that 'if everything goes well, Hungary will become the ninth'. They also agreed on the importance of Hungarian minorities having priests speaking Hungarian, and according to Schmitt, the pope said he is well aware of this problem. Other topics were the financing of Hungarian church schools, and the EU presidency of Hungary starting next January. According to Schmitt, the pope even mentioned how much he appreciated that the Remonstrances of Saint Stephen, king of Hungary to his son, Imre (who was later canonised, as his father was) are availabe on the president's homepage.
The Vatican's Osservatore Romano also mentioned the visit, but in much less detail.

As good catholic, the president of course kissed the pope's ring: