Pope Francis arrives for the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom in Presov, Slovakia, on 14 September 2021. PRESOV, Slovakia, Sept 14 Reuters - Pope Francis said on Tuesday that the cross should not be used as a political symbol and warned against Christians trying to become triumphalist in an apparent criticism of the use of religion for partisan ends.
Francis flew to the town of Presov, in Eastern Slovenia, where he presided at a long service used as a Christian Liturgy, a holy ritual rite used by Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
The pope used his homily around the theme of Christian identity, saying that crosses and crucifixes were often used superficially by Christians.
He said that 30,000 worshippers told him that many Christian had crucifixes or crosses around their necks, on walls in their homes, in their cars and in their pockets, but had no real relationship with Jesus.
What good is that if one stops to look in the crucified Jesus and opens our hearts to him, he said? Let us not reduce the cross to a religious object of devotion, less to a religious symbol, to a sign of social status. In 1950 in Preov, the communist authorities forced the Eastern Rite Catholics, who owe their allegiance to the Pope, to join the Orthodox Church. A number of Eastern Rite clerics were jailed for refusing.
Viktor Orban, whose pope briefly stopped on Sunday, appealed to religious sentiment in his anti-immigration and nationalist politics, saying that Hungary's Catholic heritage risked disappearing.
After his meeting with the pope on Sunday, Orban said he would ask the pontiff not to let Christian Hungary perish. The pope said in Hungary that the country could preserve its Christian roots while opening up to the needy. At the liturgy on Tuesday, Francis again appeared to warn Christians against the use of their religion in so-called culture wars that he believes hurt the common good.
How often do we long for a Christy of winners, a triumphalist Christianity that is important and influential.
In what order do I receive glory and honour? He said.
In Slovakia, the far-right Kotlebovci People's Party Our Slovakia says it stands on three pillars – Christian, national and social - and has vowed to prevent migration of mostly Muslim refugees.
The cross is not a flag to wave, but the pure source of a new way of living, Francis said, adding that a radical believer views no one as an enemy, but everyone as a brother or sister A number of political parties in Europe including several far-right parties in the East, use crosses on their party flags or symbols.
One of Orban's allies in Hungary, the tiny Christian Democratic Peoples' Party KDNP uses a cross on its symbol. The far-right nationalist Our Homeland Party Mi Hazank uses the horizontal cross, which has two byzantine beams.