News News from Hungary “It was good to be Catholic and Hun­gar­i­an here”

“It was good to be Catholic and Hun­gar­i­an here”

It was good to be Catholic and Hun­gar­i­an here” – Father Kornél Fábry, Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al of the 52nd Inter­na­tion­al Eucharis­tic Congress

“I had the feel­ing that indeed, Jesus is among us,” Father Kornél Fábry, the chief orga­niz­er of the 52nd Inter­na­tion­al Eucharis­tic Con­gress, told Hun­gary Today when asked about how he felt dur­ing the event. The Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al of this year’s IEC added that besides a lot of work, the prepa­ra­tion of the Con­gress also includ­ed an abun­dance of grace. Father Kornél also spoke about the meet­ing with Pope Fran­cis, the suc­cess­ful host­ing of the event, and gave his views on some of the crit­i­cism regard­ing the num­ber of par­tic­i­pants. Interview.

You decid­ed to serve the Lord at the age of 22. You have men­tioned in sev­er­al of your pre­vi­ous lec­tures and inter­views that it had nev­er occurred to you before to become a priest, and that you were even out­right frus­trat­ed if you were thought to be one. Then you went to a youth forum in Mani­la, and imme­di­ate­ly after return­ing home you decid­ed to become a mem­ber of the church. What hap­pened on this trip?

In the past, when­ev­er I thought of priest­hood I quick­ly dis­missed the idea. I was able to attend the 1995 World Youth Sum­mit in Mani­la as one of Hungary’s del­e­gates. It was a fan­tas­tic expe­ri­ence to cel­e­brate Holy Mass with Pope John Paul II in a crowd of 4.5 mil­lion peo­ple. The top­ic was the evan­ge­liza­tion of youth, which I was able to com­ment on at the Youth Forum. I took the oppor­tu­ni­ty. Then began a flood of ques­tions: sev­er­al dif­fer­ent peo­ple found me one after the oth­er, all of them ask­ing me about priest­hood. Some bish­ops and priests who were with us asked me if I had thought about becom­ing a priest myself. Then, when I got home com­plete strangers asked me whether I was a priest or a sem­i­nar­i­an. It was all get­ting sus­pi­cious. God sent them to open my eyes: this is my call­ing. The deci­sion, of course, I had to make myself. I think after that the Lord wiped his brow say­ing, “final­ly!”

The great­est joy for me was to take God’s mer­cy to the peo­ple. As a priest, I can­not only talk about it, but I can also give abso­lu­tion. Do you need more than that?”

So in the autumn, I went to sem­i­nary and in 2000 I was able, as a new­ly ordained priest, to con­cel­e­brate with thou­sands of oth­er priests and the pope at the World Youth Day in Rome.

In 2016, Car­di­nal Péter Erdő entrust­ed you with the orga­ni­za­tion of this year’s Con­gress. Why did he pick you?

I asked him the same ques­tion. He said that every­one rec­om­mend­ed me. Who “every­one” was is not entire­ly clear to me, but it is not impor­tant. As a mem­ber of the Emmanuel Com­mu­ni­ty, the Eucharist, Holy Mass, and the Eucharis­tic ado­ra­tion are very impor­tant to me. I love orga­niz­ing. I par­tic­i­pat­ed in the 2007 City Mis­sion in Budapest as a pre­sen­ter and dur­ing the 2013 Hun­gaR­ió as a pro­gram offi­cer. Per­haps my prac­ti­cal­i­ty and love of the Eucharist seemed a good com­bi­na­tion for this task.

Was the pro­pos­al unex­pect­ed or did you have a pre­mo­ni­tion? What was the first thought going through your mind?

It was unex­pect­ed. My first thought was: well, fine, but how can I do this when I am entrust­ed with the pas­toral care of four set­tle­ments, teach­ing at two uni­ver­si­ties and a Catholic high school, etc.

So I asked the Car­di­nal for a few days to pray on my deci­sion. At the end of an hour-long ado­ra­tion, I received from Jesus a con­fir­ma­tion that my spir­i­tu­al father called ‘more than obvious.’”

So my answer was this: I accept the task because Jesus asks me to.

You were orig­i­nal­ly sched­uled to be appoint­ed until 2020, but the Con­gress had to be post­poned a year due to the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic. What were the biggest chal­lenges of orga­niz­ing the event, and how did the pan­dem­ic add to them?

It was orga­nized on two lev­els: spir­i­tu­al and prac­ti­cal. It was a huge three-plus-eight-day event, which had to be care­ful­ly orga­nized, from find­ing venues to hir­ing con­trib­u­tors, to bud­get­ing, and hir­ing staff. And all of this was only to be fruit­ful if we are suf­fi­cient­ly pre­pared spir­i­tu­al­ly. It’s like a long jump: your per­for­mance depends on how you lead up to it. This is what the nice­ly struc­tured, three-year prepa­ra­tion has been for, with an addi­tion­al year ded­i­cat­ed to faith-relat­ed actions.

You met Pope Fran­cis in per­son for the first time a few years ago, then as the Chief Sec­re­tary of this year’s Inter­na­tion­al Eucharis­tic Con­gress. Did the Holy Father give you any guid­ance then?

When Arch­bish­op Piero Mari­ni intro­duced me as Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al at a prepara­to­ry meet­ing in Rome, the Holy Father sim­ply said: „Molto lavoro, molto lavoro…” That is, “a lot of work, a lot of work…” He was right.

Did you have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet Pope Fran­cis dur­ing his vis­it to Budapest? Did he say any­thing to you about this year’s IEC?

This time, when we were able to meet for a few moments after the mass, I recalled what he had said ear­li­er and added: “yes, a lot of work, but also a lot of grace.” He nod­ded in agree­ment. I also had a nice sur­prise: I received the missal of the Pon­tif­i­cal Mass, which the Holy Father had signed for me.

The papa­cy of Pope Fran­cis is often rather divi­sive, even among those who claim to be Catholic. Why do you think this is? What do you think of him?

I see him as the Vic­ar of Christ on Earth, cho­sen by the Col­lege of Car­di­nals under the guid­ance of the Holy Spirit.

Hence­forth, it is not for me to judge or crit­i­cize him, but only to pray for him, as he always asks.”

What do you think of the 52nd Inter­na­tion­al Eucharis­tic Congress?

Arch­bish­op Piero Mari­ni, Pres­i­dent of the Pon­tif­i­cal Com­mit­tee for Inter­na­tion­al Eucharis­tic Con­gress­es, said: under the cur­rent cir­cum­stances, we should be grate­ful that we were even able to orga­nize it at all. I am full of grat­i­tude to God and to all my col­leagues who have helped to make this Con­gress pos­si­ble. I think that it has been as much a beau­ti­ful expe­ri­ence for the peo­ple of the 21st cen­tu­ry as the Con­gress of 1938 was for the peo­ple of that time. I hope that it will not be the end but the begin­ning of renew­al. We are already begin­ning to see the fruits, so it was def­i­nite­ly worth organizing.

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It might be dif­fi­cult to choose, but which pro­gram was the most mem­o­rable for you?

The whole week was a huge cel­e­bra­tion. I also have to admit that I didn’t get to many places, or if I did, I was often behind the scenes doing what was still need­ed, but if I had to high­light some of the pro­grams, I would pick two: the Thurs­day evening Eucharis­tic ado­ra­tion of the com­mu­ni­ties in St. Stephen’s Basil­i­ca, and the Eucharis­tic can­dle­light pro­ces­sion on Andrássy Avenue.

Dur­ing both of these events I had the feel­ing that indeed, Jesus is among us, we are fol­low­ing Him, His king­dom is among us.”

Everyone’s eyes were sparkling; every­one was singing and smil­ing at each oth­er. I agree with one remark about the entire week: it was good to be Catholic and Hun­gar­i­an here.

A minor debate broke out in the Hun­gar­i­an press about whether the event was attend­ed by many or few. There were some who thought that the num­ber of peo­ple attend­ing the Con­gress was not that high, while oth­ers felt a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of peo­ple were inter­est­ed in the event. Which is the cor­rect assessment?

Every­one was there who need­ed to be there and every­one fol­lowed the week’s events via TV, radio, and the inter­net, who had to fol­low them via these chan­nels. Giv­en the cir­cum­stances, I am not at all dis­ap­point­ed with the num­ber of par­tic­i­pants and fol­low­ers. I also appre­ci­ate the fact that the pro­grams of the Con­gress were and are still viewed by thou­sands of peo­ple after­wards, so par­tic­i­pants are still join­ing, and the num­ber of peo­ple who are tun­ing in is con­stant­ly increas­ing… God can touch people’s hearts through these chan­nels as well.

Sev­er­al arti­cles con­demned the Con­gress for not intro­duc­ing spe­cif­ic epi­demi­o­log­i­cal mea­sures (mask man­date, social dis­tanc­ing, etc.) to the par­tic­i­pants. Hav­ing an immu­ni­ty cer­tifi­cate wasn’t a require­ment either. What was the rea­son for this decision?

It was not our deci­sion, but of the Hun­gar­i­an Par­lia­ment. We had stressed all along dur­ing prepa­ra­tions that we would act in accor­dance with the then cur­rent rules. When the deci­sion was made on the above-men­tioned issues, we also asked every­one after­ward to look after each oth­er, to behave and take part respon­si­bly in the Con­gress pro­grams. We did our utmost to pro­tect the par­tic­i­pants: we ordered 30,000 masks in advance in case things got worse, and we placed hand san­i­tiz­er at every entrance and put some in the pil­grims’ bags.

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The fact that the Holy Father spent only a few hours in Hun­gary, while at his next stop, in Slo­va­kia, he stayed three days, was seen by many as a sub­tle but clear diplo­mat­ic mes­sage to Hun­gary.  Could this real­ly be the case, or is there a more prac­ti­cal rea­son for Pope Fran­cis’ trav­el schedule?

The answer for me is very sim­ple: the Holy Father was accept­ing an invi­ta­tion from Car­di­nal Péter Erdő and Pres­i­dent János Áder. This invi­ta­tion was to the Congress.

On the plane on the way home from Slo­va­kia, the Holy Father men­tioned that he would be hap­py to come back to vis­it us. This shows me that he was hap­py to be with us and that he enjoyed himself.”

Does this year’s suc­cess­ful host­ing of the event pro­vide any oppor­tu­ni­ties for the Hun­gar­i­an Catholic Church?

The Church’s mis­sion giv­en by Christ is the pass­ing on of the faith and the sal­va­tion of souls. The Con­gress itself was a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to make every­one aware that our home­land is in heav­en, where Jesus Christ is the way. He lives among us in the Eucharist, we can meet Him and He can change our lives. So this event has giv­en us anoth­er oppor­tu­ni­ty to save souls, but we must continue.

We have expe­ri­enced the King­dom of God in the week of the Con­gress and we must con­tin­ue to build it in our dai­ly lives by liv­ing along­side jus­tice, peace, and love.”

Before this year’s event, the last Eucharis­tic Con­gress held in Hun­gary was host­ed in 1938. Will Hun­gary have to wait anoth­er 80 years for the next one?

Under the present sys­tem of con­gress­es, they are held every four years, once in Europe and once on anoth­er con­ti­nent. The next one will be in Ecuador in 2024, and the one after that is expect­ed to be in Europe in 2028. This means that every eight years the old con­ti­nent will host this world meet­ing. We could eas­i­ly have to wait 100 years for the next one, so if those who missed it, should make sure to rewatch the event online. They have this sto­ry to tell their grand­chil­dren, just like our ances­tors did after ’38.

Source: hun​gary​to​day​.hu