Last Sunday, Pope Shenouda III inaugurated the first Coptic Orthodox Church in Hungary, in Budapest’s eighteenth district. The Pope presided over an evening service ceremony during
Last Sunday, Pope Shenouda III inaugurated the first Coptic Orthodox Church in Hungary, in Budapest’s eighteenth district. The Pope presided over an evening service ceremony during which he anointed and consecrated the altar and the icons of the church which was named for the Holy Virgin and the Archangel Michael.
Pope Shenouda had arrived at Budapest two days earlier to a warm, resounding welcome by Europe’s Coptic community, some of whom had come to the city especially for the occasion. The Pope was accompanied by the bishops Anba Rweiss, Anba Boutros, Anba You’annis, Anba Ermiya, and Father Boutros Boutros Gayed.
On Friday 19 August, Pope Shenouda III was granted an honorary doctorate degree by Pázmány Péter Catholic University in Budapest. The university president György Fodor was joined by Cardinal Péter Erd in handing the degree to the Pope, for his outstanding academic work in humanities, especially in literature, philosophy and history of sciences.
Pope Shenouda had been invited by the Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén to take part in the 20 August celebrations for the national day of Hungary. He participated in the official ceremony at the parliament building where he met President Pál Schmitt who decorated the Pope with the Hungarian medal of State. He then joined Mr Semjén to attend Mass in St Stephen##s Basilica.
The Pope then headed to the Egyptian embassy in Budapest where he attended a Ramadan iftar (the sunset meal that ends the day’s fast) reception held in his honour.
Mr Semjén, who is also responsible for religious affairs, said that the visit by Pope Shenouda III to Hungary was a landmark event in the East-West religious dialogue.
Christians in Hungary
Watani’s Nader Shukry talked to Father Youssef Khalil, the pastor of the new church in Budapest. Fr Youssef said he had been delegated by Pope Shenouda III to serve in Hungary in 2004 when the Coptic congregation there amounted to 26 families. As the congregation swelled to some 40 Egyptian families, in addition to Arab Christians from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Sudan, there was need for a permanent place for worship instead of holding sporadic services at different places.
“We found the perfect place in an old, infrequently-used Reformist church that was built back in 1910. We purchased the single-storey building, renovated it, and added another floor and a dome to fit the Coptic style. We still plan to add two steeples once we can provide the funds in the future.
“The prayers and services are offered in the English and Coptic languages, and we are in the process of translating the ritual texts into Hungarian. We already translated the consecration service which was conducted by the Pope.”
Sunday saw the Pope’s visit to Budapest come to an end, following which he flew to the United States for a pastoral visit, as well as for medical consultations at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. He is expected to be in the US for three weeks after which he returns home.
Earlier this year, the Pope was awarded Germany’s Augsburg Peace Prize for 2011. The prize is awarded every three years to individuals who significantly contribute to the cause of peaceful coexistence between different communities. Pope Shenouda was chosen for his role in building bridges between the Copts and Muslims in Egypt.
This article was printed in Watani International on 28 August 2011
8 April 2012