VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II invited leaders of the New Europe to educate young people in moral and civic values, as he received Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany in audience.
“With Hungary’s entrance in the European Union this year, a significant new chapter has now opened in her history,” the Pope said in Hungarian to his guest at their audience Saturday.
“I am confident that your country will make a specific contribution to the future of this continent by drawing upon the rich patrimony of cultural and spiritual values which, from the time of St. Stephen, have formed the soul of the Hungarian people,” the Holy Father added. St. Stephen was a Hungarian king who died in 1038.
“In this regard I think especially of the young people of your nation, and the importance of their training in sound moral and civic virtues,” John Paul II added. “This is an area of particular concern to the Church as she seeks to contribute to the common good in the fulfillment of her religious and educational mission.”
In this context, the Pope expressed his gratitude for “the series of juridical agreements entered into by Hungary and the Holy See in recent years, particularly the Agreement on Financing the Activities of Public Service and other religious activities undertaken in Hungary by the Catholic Church.”
“That agreement defines in a juridically binding way the role of the Church in an important area of Hungarian society, with due respect for the human rights to religious freedom and to education,” the Holy Father said.
“It is my hope that a spirit of constructive cooperation will continue to mark the work of both Church and state in the task of implementing faithfully what was negotiated and agreed upon,” he added.
On Sept. 29, Hungary’s Parliament confirmed Ferenc Gyurcsany as the country’s new prime minister. The 43-year-old Gyurcsany was unanimously backed by the ruling Socialist Party and the junior coalition member Free Democrats.
Gyurcsany has been de facto premier since the midterm resignation of Peter Medgyessy in August, after the latter lost the confidence of the liberal Free Democrats.
About two-thirds of Hungary’s 10 million people are Catholic. About 20% are Calvinists, and 5% are Lutherans.