Who can forget hearing Pope Benedict announce his resignation of the papacy on February 11, 2013 and then, in one of the most moving, touching, memorable videos of a papacy, fly over Vatican City in a helicopter for Castelgandolfo where he would reside for several months.

The Sede vacante began at 8 pm, February 28, 2013.

Do you remember?

I certainly do because I reported on this momentous day in Church history for EWTN television. There were many moments when I was not sure I could control my emotions and a few when you could sense and see what I felt. I’ve seen this several times in years past and always tear up a bit. The Rome portions starts at about 5:40: (12) Pope’s Departure From the Vatican – 2013-02-28 – YouTube


In an interview with Vatican News, Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, discusses his “great joy” for Pope Francis’ upcoming Apostolic Journey to the nation from 28 to 30 April, while recognizing the significance of the visit taking place with the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Cardinal Peter Erdo says Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Hungary will be a great joy for the nation.

In an interview with Vatican News, the Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Primate of Hungary, expressed his delight about the Holy Father’s upcoming journey to the Eastern European country from 28 to 30 April, marking the Pope’s 41st Apostolic Journey abroad.

On Monday, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, announced the Pope would make the visit after having accepted the invitation of the civil and ecclesial authorities to visit the country.

In the interview, Cardinal Erdo gives his personal reaction to, and his expectations for, the papal journey, also as it takes place with the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

He also expresses why Pope Francis’ return to Hungarian territory is significant, and sheds light on the program itself, including the Holy Father’s planned meeting with children.

During his three-day journey, the Pope will visit with refugees and poor people, as well as with children of the Blessed László Batthyány-Strattmann Institute.

More than half of Hungarians are Christian, and at least 37 percent of the population identify as Catholic.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, nearly 1 million Ukrainian nationals have travelled through Hungary as refugees, according to local sources.

The Holy Father had made a brief stop in the country’s capital of Budapest to celebrate Mass for the closure of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress on 12 September 2021, on his way to Slovakia.

Pope Francis had also has shown his closeness to the Hungarian faithful during his visit to Romania, when celebrated Mass at the popular Hungarian pilgrimage site of Csíksomlyó (Șumuleu Ciuc) in Romania’s Transylvania region. Transylvania had once been part of Hungary, but became Romanian territory in 1920. Ethnic Hungarians in Romania total more than one million people.

Q: Cardinal Erdo, how do you comment on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Hungary, and what are your expectations for this visit?

With great joy we received the news of the Holy Father’s visit to Hungary. We invited him as the Hungarian Church, as the Church of Budapest, and we wanted to welcome him for a pastoral visit.

Last time, when he visited our city to participate in the closing Mass of the World Eucharistic Congress (September 2021, ed.), it was a lightning visit. Instead, a pastoral visit, a meeting with the community of the faithful, was something that had been desired for many years. So it is an immense joy.

Q: As you mentioned, this is not the first time the Holy Father has come to Hungary. Why is his return to the country important now?

Precisely because of the very fact of a meeting with the Hungarian faithful. The event of 2021 was an international event: pilgrims, bishops, priests, faithful were present from 83 countries. This time, however, Francis is addressing the Hungarians, our people, our local Church. This gives us great honour and joy.

Q: In the background of this trip, there is the war in Ukraine. How will this reality be important during the trip? We know Hungary helped so many Ukrainian refugees during this time of the invasion.

The news of the war that broke out a year ago and went on all this year means a lot of sadness for us. Sadness for the very fact of the war, because we have been praying for peace every day for a year, even in different communities. We also regularly hold peace processions and have consecrated Ukraine and Russia to Our Lady, as the Holy Father had invited us to do. We did this act in St Stephen’s Basilica in front of his relic, because St Stephen a thousand years ago was the first who, according to history, offered an entire country to Our Lady. And so, we felt a spiritual closeness to the two peoples.

And what do we do? First of all, we have to face the great challenge of refugees. We are a country of less than ten million inhabitants, and in the last year more than one and a half million refugees have arrived from Ukraine. Certainly not all of them wanted to stay in Hungary, but 10-15% of the refugees stayed.

So the first challenge was humanitarian aid. We received the refugees both at the border and in Budapest, through the national Caritas, the diocesan Caritas and the charity groups of the individual parishes. Then there were the Knights of Malta who did so much for those who arrived.

Q: And the faithful were rather involved in this assistance?

Then we had to organise the spontaneous help offered by the faithful, the hospitality of certain parishes and ecclesial institutions as well as private individuals. We also saw that there are many women and children who need schools, teaching. We could also organise this in Catholic schools. There were teachers who knew Russian, others among the refugees who spoke Ukrainian. And so we tried to organise the teaching according to the age of the groups of children.

There were also Hungarian-speaking refugees from the area bordering Hungary, so integration was easier for them. But we also try to integrate the others, offering them a job, a flat that they can use for a longer period of time… So I think it is a challenge that continues to be very great, but one that helps us to become aware of our Christian vocation.

Q: Looking at the programme released by the Holy See Press Office, one sees a meeting with children. Can you tell us more?

For several decades there has been an ecclesiastical institute in Budapest that takes in blind and disabled children. So they need a lot of affection and help from the entire Catholic community.

This institute will be visited in April by the Pope who always shows solidarity and tenderness towards these children.




The Holy See Press Office has published the following list of rapporteurs and moderators of the synod’s Circuli Minori, or Language Groups: Gallicus (French), Anglicus (English), Italicus (Italian), Hibericus (Spanish) and Germanicus (German). The language groups met for the first time Tuesday afternoon.

It was noted at a press briefing in the Holy See Press Office today that while a group may be labeled as English, French, etc., not all members of that group would be native English- or French-speakers. For example, Archbishop Charles Chaput of English Group D said that, in his group, there were people from Canada, France, India, Bangladesh, Australia, Belgium and Uganda and several people from United States.


Circulus Gallicus “A”:     Archbishop Laurent Ulrich of Lille, France

Circulus Gallicus “B”:     Msgr. Francois-Xavier Dumortier S.J.

Circulus Gallicus “C”:     Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher

Circulus Anglicus “A”:   Archbishop Joseph Edward Kurtz

Circulus Anglicus “B”:   Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Circulus Anglicus “C”:   Bishop Mark Benedict Coleridge

Circulus Anglicus “D”:   Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

Circulus Italicus “A”:     Rev. Fr. Manuel Jesus Arroba Conde, C.M.F.

Circulus Italicus “B”:     Cardinal Mauro Piacenza

Circulus Italicus “C”:     Bishop Franco Giulio Brambilla

Circulus Hibericus “A”: Cardinal Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan, O.A.R.

Circulus Hibericus “B”: Archbishop Baltazar Porras Cardozo

Circulus Germanicus:     Archbishop Heiner Koch


Circulus Gallicus “A”:   Cardinal Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, elected

Circulus Gallicus “B”:   Cardinal Robert Sarah, elected

Circulus Gallicus “C”:     Maurice Piat, C.S.Sp., elected

Circulus Anglicus “A”:   Cardinal George Pell, elected

Circulus Anglicus “B”:   Cardinal Vincent Nichols, elected

Circulus Anglicus “C”:   Eamon Martin, elected

Circulus Anglicus “D”:   Cardinal Thomas Christopher Collins, elected

Circulus Italicus “A”:     Cardinal Francesco Montenegro, elected

Circulus Italicus “B”:    Cardinal Edoardo Menichelli, elected

Circulus Italicus “C”:     Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, elected

Circulus Hibericus “A”: Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, S.D.B. elected

Circulus Hibericus “B”: Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega, elected

Circulus Germanicus:     Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, O.P.,elected


Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., says the opening days of the Synod of Bishops are going smoothly. “I think we’re moving along very well. We’ve had very good discussions in the Aula (hall). Many, many of the points that were raised contribute positively to trying to find a better way to say what we want to say. The rest of them reinforced what’s already there. So far, this has been a very positive meeting.” (Reuters photo)


In an interview in the synod hall with Vatican Radio’s Bernd Hagenkord, S.J., Cardinal Wuerl spoke about the atmosphere in the small groups, which began their discussions on Tuesday afternoon. “Now we’re in the small language groups. We’re just beginning. And I think we’re already beginning to sense, in our small group, a sense of solidarity around what it is we want to say, and a consensus where are the major points to be underlined. We’re just beginning, but we’re off to a good start.”

Asked about his predictions for the synod, Cardinal Wuerl said he hoped that, “out of this whole discussion will come a recognition that while we have a very clear doctrinal basis for our appreciation of marriage, equally part of the revelation is God’s mercy.” He also expressed his hope that the Synod would address the need to respond pastorally “to all of the people whose marriage is not the ideal, whose lives more reflect the brokenness of the human condition than they reflect the beauty of the ideal.”


Catholic News Agency, CNA, in a piece appearing online yesterday, wrote that a day earlier, the opening day of the 2015 Synod on the Family, Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, the synod’s relator general, gave an introductory speech to the synod fathers. Drawing from the working document for the synod as well as recent magisterial documents, Cardinal Erdo surveyed the work the assembly is called to do. He examined current challenges to the family and marriage, the vocation of the family, and the family’s mission today.

Cardinal Erdo’s remarks have been criticized since he spoke Monday and many, in fact, share the opinion of Archbishop Coleridge who wrote on his blog that some “are uneasy about the impression given by the presentation of Cardinal Erdo in the morning that some key questions are already decided and seemingly off the table. They felt that such a stance was premature.”

The cardinal himself, at a press conference Monday, explained that his introductory address had followed the structure of Instrumentum Laboris. “I tried to systematize all the data which was received from the Church around the world, including families and individuals who wrote to us, following the themes already in Instrumentum Laboris.”

And here is what Edward Pentin wrote – in part – in the National Catholic Register about the Erdo talk:

“In his speech, Cardinal Erdö reasserted much of the Church’s teaching, and cast doubt on the prospect of a controversial proposal to readmit civilly remarried divorcees to Communion.

“The proposal, first raised by Cardinal Walter Kasper, a German and the president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, at a consistory in February 2014 and which is based on the practice of Eastern Orthodox Churches, was one of the most controversial issues at last year’s extraordinary synod on the family.

“The current gathering, which runs until Oct. 25 and is being attended by 279 bishops and priests from around the world, is to discuss the theme “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World.”

“In his 2014 proposal, Cardinal Kasper said divorced-and-remarried Catholics could be readmitted to the sacraments after a period of penitence for their first marriage. Critics said it undermined the indissolubility of marriage, amounted to an attack on the sacrament of the Eucharist, and would precipitate many other abuses of Church teaching.

“Cardinal Erdö, 63, whose position as general relator makes him responsible for underlining the goals of the synod at the beginning of the three-week meeting, stressed that civilly remarried Catholics “must be given merciful pastoral guidance,” but this “does not call into question the indissolubility of marriage as taught by Jesus Christ himself.”

“He added that ‘God’s mercy offers forgiveness to sinners but requires conversion’,” and, in this case, “a couple’s sin does not lie first and foremost in whatever behavior may have led to the breakup of the first marriage.”The reason they cannot receive the Eucharist “is not because of the failure of their first marriage, but because of the cohabitation in their second relationship,” he said.”

The cardinal’s speech appeared on Vatican web pages in Italian but it has now been translated into English by some of the CNA staff: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/full-text-of-cardinal-erdos-introductory-report-for-the-synod-on-the-family-67404/



The 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World,” began this morning in the Synod Hall in the presence of Pope Francis. Francis called for the two-part synod on the family – October 2014 was Part One, the Extraordinary Synod on the Family – early in his papacy.

The first Synod Father to speak was Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, who presented to the Synod Fathers a brief meditation summarising the intentions and spirit of the Assembly. Cardinal Maradiaga is also one of the Council of 9 Cardinals who meet several times a year to advise the Holy Father on various issues, including the running of the Roman Curia.

He noted that, althougb Pope Francis tirelessly proclaims the joy of the Gospel worldwide, “as he himself has told us, the greatest risk in the world today, with its multiple and overwhelming consumption, is an individualistic sorrow that springs from a comfortable and covetous heart, a feeble search for superficial pleasures, an isolated consciousness. Sometimes it saddens us to hear how the world has focused on this Synod as if we came together as two opposing sides to defend entrenched positions.”

Cardinal Maradiaga urged courage of heart for “We are not a Church in danger of extinction or indeed far less. Neither is the family, although it is threatened and opposed. Nor do we come to mourn or lament the difficulties. … Let us all have one mind: let us all seek the unanimity that comes from dialogue, not ideas defended at all costs. … It is time to know how to plan a culture that favors dialogue and the pursuit of consensus and agreements as a form of encounter. We are not in need of a project of a few and for the few or an enlightened or minority that appropriates a collective sentiment.”

Pope Francis then addressed the assembly (that talk is a separate blog, entitled SYNOD FATHERS MUST “VEST OURSELVES WITH APOSTOLIC COURAGE, EVANGELICAL HUMILITY AND TRUSTING PRAYER”

Pope Francis and Cardinal Peter Erdo (news.va AP)


The president delegate, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris then commented that the Pope’s decision to convoke two sessions of the Synod of Bishops on the mission of the family in the contemporary world has been fruitful and that the episcopate has borne witness to this. The particular Churches have made efforts to contribute to the work by answering to the questionnaire that informed the Instrumentum Laboris. “Our Synod is led by the Church.”

The cardinal also mentioned the Motu Proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus, with which the Holy Father reformed the canonical procedures regarding the declaration of nullity of marriage, which offers valuable direction on the spirit according to which this phase of the Synod should unfold. “Without casting doubt on the sacramental tradition of our Church, nor its doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage, you invite us to share our pastoral experiences and to open the paths of mercy by which the Lord calls all those who wish to and are able to enter into a space for conversion with a view to forgiveness”.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod, explained the working methods of the Synod of Bishops in this extraordinary assembly, including the time available for interventions by the Synod Fathers –3 minutes – and the greater space accorded to the Circuli Minori, the smaller language groups, in order to foster more intense debate, as well as the importance given to contributions by couples and the relationships between the Synod and the media.

Finally, the general rapporteur, Cardinal Peter Erdo of Ezstergom-Budapest, illustrated the first part of the Instrumentum Laboris on the challenges to the family, placing them in the contemporary socio-cultural context, marked by a “flight from institutions,” thus institutional instability and the predominance of individualism and subjectivism.

He then spoke about Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the issue of communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, saying a “merciful pastoral accompaniment is due” in these cases but no one can doubt “the truth of indissolubility of marriage, taught by Jesus Christ himself.” He noted, “It is not the failure of the first marriage but living in a second relationship that impedes access to the Eucharist.”

The Hungarian cardinal also mentioned the “wounded” families saying they must be welcomed and helped in the context of mercy and truth.

On the question of people who have “homosexual tendencies,” he said, “it must be repeated that every person should be respected in their dignity, independent of their sexual tendency. It is desirable that pastoral programs might set aside a particular attention to the families in which persons with homosexual tendencies live.”

Cardinal Erdo stressed that, “to face today’s challenges to the family, the Church must convert and become more alive, more personal, and more community-based, also at the levels of the parish and the small community. It would appear that a community reawakening is already in process in many areas.”