Hungarian politician replaces pastor during mass

Although the close relationship between the Church and the Fidesz party is not a new phenomenon, the appearance of a politician at a pulpit is unprecedented. It implies that the Hungarian ruling party has the grace of God.

Ivett Körösi
Ivett Körösi Nepszava, Hungary
Source: Nepszava
Hungarian politician replaces pastor during mass - NewsMavens
Holy mass. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

The residents of the Hungarian city Veszprem have probably never seen a more bizarre mass. Since a Lutheran pastor could not attend, a local politician of the ruling Fidesz party replaced him.

The reason behind the absence of the pastor remains a mystery. What we know is that he asked Peter Ovadi to read his message to the congregation, and the conservative politician was happy to oblige. He went to the pulpit and, as the representative of the pastor (of God?), delivered the speech.

His temporary career change divided the churchgoers. On social media, many approved of his presence in the church, others were outraged by the fact that a politician preached at mass. To them, it was a blasphemy. Some Facebook users pointed out that this was not the first time Fidesz used the Church to convey its message.

“It has happened before. Our church was involved in the election campaign. The priest specifically told the people who to vote for,” a comment reads.

The right-wing Fidesz and the Christian Church have grown quite close in the past years. The Church is highly dependent on the ruling party. In return for the government's support, it helps whenever it can. As the Facebook user wrote, it is not unheard of for priests to opt for “Fidesz-friendly” rhetoric at masses.

During the refugee crisis, most of the representatives of the Church remained silent or echoed the hate speech of the ruling party. Only a few of them encouraged people to help, and preached about solidarity, humanity and empathy -- in line with the Pope’s message. The tsunami of hate they were confronted with, from fellow priests and ordinary citizens, was shocking.

Although the close relationship between the Church and Fidesz is not a new phenomenon, the appearance of a politician at a pulpit is unprecedented. The ruling party is ready to go far to gain influence, even if it requires crossing moral boundaries.

Sending a politician to a church is a clear message: Fidesz wants voters to believe that they have the grace of God. We will likely witness more lines crossed as the elections of 2018 approach.

Details from the story:

  • On November 4, Hungary commemorates the heroes of the revolution of 1956 who were murdered by the Soviet troops. That day, a special ecumenical mass took place at the St Michael Cathedral of Veszprem, in which several denominations were represented. The Lutheran pastor could not attend so Peter Ovadi, a local politician of the Fidesz party, replaced him.
  • Ovadi spoke publicly. In March, he gave a speech to kindergarten children during the anniversary of the revolution of 1848. “If we recognize the Hungarians' perseverance, then our country will continue to be an island of stability and peace. A place worth living, working and raising a family in,” he told the kids, according to the local website, Vehir.
  • Both Ovadi and the absent pastor refused to comment.
  • Ovadi’s star has been rising since 2001. He is a well-known figure in Veszprem. Several sources confirmed he could be the local candidate of Fidesz in the 2018 elections.
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