Why this story matters:
It is now rare for a priest to voice an opinion that contradicts the government’s narrative. Father Toni, a priest who once worked as a high-end chef, is one of the few who has.
More often, the government and the church have a cozy relationship. We see it in Russia, Poland and Hungary, where the ruling elite can reach and influence the masses through the church.
In the eye of believers, priests are "ambassadors of God" who show the right way in a frantic world.
The Hungarian government seems to have taken advantage of this. In recent months, there have been several cases when the church seemed to serve as a campaign headquarters for the ruling right-wing Fidesz party rather than as a house of God. Two weeks ago, a priest openly asked his congregation to support a Fidesz’ candidate running for mayor in the town of Hodmezovasarhely. A few months earlier, a Fidesz politician gave a speech during a a mass.
Perhaps the words of Father Toni will inspire other religious leaders to stand up for migrants and oppose anti-immigration policies.
Details from the story:
- Antal Michels, known as Father Toni, has been a priest for 20 years. Before dedicating his life to God, he worked as a chef for several leading politicians, including Margaret Thatcher and Swedish Social Democratic politician and statesman Olof Palme.
- Father Toni is known for regularly cooking for the homeless of Budapest. He has been criticized for "transforming the church into a restaurant.”
- "It is natural that the government wants to protect the borders, but we have to take care of the migrants who are already in the country," he said.