Pope receives Hungary’s president

Castel Gandolfo, September 10 (MTI) – Pope Benedict XVI gave a private audience to Hungarian President Pal Schmitt at the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo on Friday morning.

During the audience, the president said he would like to see a reference to the Christian tradition and the Holy Crown in Hungary’s new Constitution which is being drafted.

    ”The pontiff welcomed this endeavour,” Schmitt told reporters, adding that he was “proud to report” to the pontiff that, if all goes according to plan, Hungary will be the ninth European nation to incorporate such a paragraph into its Constitution.

    Schmitt said it would be important for spiritual services to be provided for ethnic Hungarians beyond the border by Hungarian pastors. The pope said he was well aware of this need and pledged to see this desire being fulfilled as soon as possible.

    The two sides reviewed relations between Hungary and the Holy See, and discussed the priorities of the Hungarian EU presidency during the first half of 2011.

    Schmitt said that Hungary, as EU president, would pay attention to child poverty and the importance of the family. As long as the current government remains in office, marriage will be seen as a heterosexual union aimed at raising children, while the family is considered as society’s irreplaceable basic unit.

    He said that the pope had shown keen interest in the emerging Danube strategy and emphasised the importance of regional cooperation between neighbouring states. He welcomed Hungary’s support for the soonest possible EU accession of Croatia, a country with a Catholic majority.

    Schmitt offered the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma in west Hungary as the site for a possible meeting between the Russian patriarch and the pope.

    After the audience, Schmitt held talks with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State of the Vatican. The two sides discussed foreign policy issues, the enlargement of the European Union and, within that, the EU’s approach to Croatia, Kosovo and Turkey.

    The president is accompanied by First Lady Katalin Schmitt.