Take a dozen Jesuits. Make them stand at seven stations on a route between a shrine near Budapest and their community house in the capital of Hungary. Ask them to describe each step of the Jesuit formation at the consecutive stops. Add them a hundred friends, and get the whole lot of people run or walk the 9 kilometre distance amidst the woods. Fill the sporting activity with spiritual content, and encourage the participants to dedicate every joy and pain the physical exercise has to offer to the present and future members of the Society of Jesus. After crossing the finish line, cook goulash for more than a hundred in the garden of the Jesuit community. Draught beer and fine lemonade is also a must. Blend it with nice jazz music. Finally serve it in bright autumn sunshine, and there you have the recipe of the first Hungarian Jesuit community run/walk. This unique occasion took place on the last Saturday of September as one of the major events in the Year of Vocations proclaimed by the Hungarian Jesuit province at the beginning of 2019. The members and friends of the Society of Jesus in Hungary have a long history of joining foot races, but this time they – implementing vocation promoter Bálint Nagy SJ’s concept – decided to organise a fun run of their own. What is more, it was not actually a competition, but an event where the spiritual aspect was at least as important as physical activity. The entire day was given a frame story, in which the participants, as if “wannabe” Jesuits themselves, followed the stations of the formation step by step from the noviciate to the final vows and ordination, halting for two minutes at the stops and listening to the Jesuits there presenting their actual studies in a nutshell. The venue of the event was also telling. The popular hiking destination used to be the „spiritual port” of the Jesuits before the transition in 1990, when in Communist times the shrine dedicated to Virgin Mary housed their noviciate. It was also in this church where a Jesuit general paid his first visit ever to Hungary in 1978. Pedro Arrupe met with the Hungarian Jesuits working half illegally in the country, and presented them a chalice to encourage his persecuted companions to keep their faith and commitment. It was a touching moment at the mass celebrated prior to the run when socius Zoltán Koronkai SJ told the participants: the silver grail they can see standing on the altar is the very same one that Father Arrupe gave the Hungarian Jesuits nearly half a century before.
This September saw a unique occasion in the history of their main church, a double jubilee and a final vow, thus altogether four reasons to celebrate for the Hungarian Jesuits. It was on the 7th day of the month that the province became independent 110 years ago. On the holy mass celebrated by P. Elemér Vízi SJ for the occasion, the provincial recalled the ancestors of the present day Jesuits and praised them for their persistence throughout the hard times of the 20th century and onwards. Another roundly anniversary was the martyrdom of three Catholic priests – two Jesuits and one former Jesuit student – 400 years ago. The “martyrs of Kassa”, as they are widely known, are the patron saints of the Hungarian province (Kassa referring to their city now belonging to Slovakia and called Kosice). They sacrificed their life for their Catholic faith when in the 17th century war of religions each of them refused to convert to Protestantism. Since today the various denominations live peacefully in the Carpathian Basin, the three martyrs presently are not so much remembered as outstanding figures of resistance in an era full religious tensions, but rather as examples of adherence and fidelity. The two jubilees were celebrated in the church of the Hungarian Jesuits dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Budapest. The building has gone through an extensive renovation inside and outside, its organ was restored and its altar from the 1970s was replaced by a modern, cubic one, more representing the sacrificial aspect of the holy mass. It was at the foot of this new altar where P. Tibor Bartók SJ took his final vow in the Society of Jesus. P. Bartók is a professor of theology, currently based in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
“We are in the most beautiful cathedral possible”, these were the words that Szabolcs Sajgó, the Jesuit director of the House of Dialogue in Budapest, began his unprecedented Holy Mass with over River Danube on 28 July. The liturgy took place on Liberty Bridge, a scheduled monument of the city, interconnecting Buda and Pest, the two banks of the Hungarian capital. The site is closed off from traffic on four weekends each summer, thus becoming a temporary pedestrian zone. For these days the bridge is transformed into one of the most popular “hang-out spots” of Budapest. Everyone is encouraged to organise cultural, sport and other events here, and this was the first time that a Catholic Mass was part of the schedule. It was the two NGOs supervising the programs that invited Father Sajgó to give a spiritual touch to the series of events on this year’s closing day, and the Jesuit was more than willing to make the most of the call for evangelisation. Besides him, three other priests concelebrated: Bálint Nagy, another Hungarian member of the Society of Jesus, Verbite friar Hernandez Elmer from the Philippines and the Salesian Michael Karikunel working in Ghana represented three continents. This lent a multicultural aspect to the liturgy, whose venue and the name of the bridge was full of symbols anyway. Unsurprisingly, the sermon included references to freedom as God’s divine plan for mankind and as the precondition for faith to get blossomed; the ever-flowing river and the bridge as eternal embodiments of constant change and steadiness, the latter one being a call to unite as against building walls. Since this was a unique event of its kind, no one knew how many people would turn up at 9 am. Eventually the attendees of the Mass almost filled the whole bridge, amounting their number to nearly two thousand. The believers were seated on the “poppy field” – that is, a mighty flower-patterned outdoor carpet – laid on the pavement at the foot of the altar, or at the edge of the curb, others were standing among or even sitting on the suspension structure of the bridge. The whole event was full of peace, love and happiness in a Christian way. What is more, thanks to the live television broadcasting and online streaming, as well as the wide subsequent media coverage, the message was conveyed to many others who were not present on the bridge. Though prior to the event there were some who disputed the point in celebrating a Mass on such a mundane venue as a bridge, it is hoped that everyone got the lesson of the Gospel right: no place is inappropriate to proclaim the world of God, let it be a church, a roof – or even a bridge over troubled waters.  
This July saw a unique technical innovation in the Hungarian Jesuit church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For the first time in the country a Paypass terminal has been installed in a church as an alternative to the traditional way of offerings. The stand, set up in one of the corners of the building, is meant to serve those who do not carry cash on them, but would like to support their beloved community by way of this digital “collection box”. As Árpád Horváth SJ, director of the church said in his press statement, this innovation is an answer to the practical consequences of a joyful pastoral development. The Jesuit church, in the very heart of Budapest, is filled with a growing number of young adults from Sunday to Sunday, attending mostly the famous 8 pm mass on the last day of the week. Since they tend to use a credit or debit card rather than cash for payment, it was inevitable to develop handy means for them to support the church. However, besides this practical answer, the Jesuits also found a liturgical solution to the sweet problem of their church having become overcrowded. They introduced another mass, from 10 pm on Sunday, for those who cannot catch or get into the earlier ones, or simply would like to attend a silent, homely examen-mass to reflect on their week behind and get spiritual keynotes for the days ahead. The buttons of the Paypass terminal offer three amounts (500, 1000, 3000 HUF) to choose from, each enjoying similar popularity for the time being. What is more, the statistics of the first month show no signs of “cannibalisation”, that is the weekly 80-100 thousand HUF (appr. 1000 EUR) digital offering has not reduced the content of the conventional collection box. It is all the more important that these days the church is coming to the end of a massive and costly reconstruction. Its hundred-year-old organ, the roof and the interior of the building is being thoroughly renewed, and the Jesuits launched a campaign to increase awareness for responsibility under the motto “Let’s maintain our church together”. The digital innovation was mostly welcomed and saw a nearly unprecedentedly wide-ranging press appearance, with a few comments about “such a terminal being an improper device in the house of God”. Our hope is that as everyone will get used to the terminal, and maybe the example will be followed by other churches, the critics will realize that this is just another way to collect the very same offerings. Besides, what really matters is the spirit that drives the donor – may he/she drop the money into a wooden or metal box, or push the buttons on a plastic stand.
Some 600 pilgrims with more than ten buses, accompanied by a dozen Jesuits from the Hungarian Province of the Society of Jesus hit the road at the end of May to journey to Romania. Their destination was a Hungarian national shrine to the Virgin Mary called Csíksomlyó (Șumuleu Ciuc), in Transylvania region, where they attended a mass celebrated by Pope Francis. It was an event of historic importance for the Hungarian minority in Romania totalling 1,3 million. The reason: when John Paul II visited the country in 1999, being the first pope to have been invited by a country with an Orthodox majority, he failed to set foot in Transylvania. The region, once part of Hungary, became Romanian territory in 1920, and due to diplomatic reasons Karol Wojtyla confined his visit to Bucharest, the capital of the country. This left ethnic Hungarians (and Greek Catholics) living in Transylvania disappointed, so John Paul II assured them: if he ever returned, he would give priority to enter their homeland. Now, after 20 years, it was Pope Francis by whose visit this promise was fulfilled, what is more, it was the historic national shrine Csíksomlyó (Șumuleu Ciuc) where he celebrated a mass for some hundred thousand people. Hungarian Jesuit provincial Elemér Vízi concelebrated with the pontiff, among a number of bishops and priests, while some other members of the Society administered the Holy Communion. Accidentally, there are 12 Jesuits of Transylvanian origin working in the Hungarian Province, including the provincial, this way it was a personal plus for them to have this privilege. The papal visit was a historic courtesy for the four, predominantly Hungarian speaking Catholic dioceses in Transylvania, and the pilgrims attending the mass were aware of the uniqueness of the event. They had been waiting for the liturgy to begin patiently in the wretched weather with rain, fog and wind – some of them under Jesuit flags and equipped with umbrellas decorated with the logo of the Society –, symbolizing the endurance of the Hungarian Catholics back in Communist Romania. In those times, although it was not advised to attend the annual Pentecostal mass in Csíksomlyó, many still found their way there, so the place became a symbol of faith, tenaciousness and persistence. As for Transylvania itself, the region played an important part in the history of Hungary; in the 16th century even a papal legate, an Italian Jesuit named Antonio Possevino was sent there to inform the Holy See of the political, cultural and religious scene of the time. Accidentally, it was this very dear Jesuit who, in his work titled Transilvania, documented first the brewery of the once famous local beer, which sees its revival nowadays by a local manufacture. The papal visit meant to promote reconciliation among the various nationalities and denominations of the multi-ethnical and -religious country: between Romanians, Hungarians and communities of German and Roma origin, Roman and Greek Catholic and Orthodox Christians, as well as Bulgarians, Slovakians and Croatians, just to name a few. In doing so, Pope Francis urged every faithful to stick to their roots, acknowledge one another’s values, thus walk together on the way of atonement. This message was all the more acute that Romania has long been criticised by Hungarians over the curtailment of minority rights. While on local levels there are many examples of peaceful and even fruitful cohabiting, ethnic Hungarians and Romanians have a long and troubled history in sharing the same country, with regular tensions frequently fuelled by officials and other political agents. While the Society of Jesus in Romania belongs to the Euro-Mediterranean Province, the Hungarian Jesuits run a community house with a church, a university chaplaincy and a boarding house for students in Marosvásárhely (Târgu Mures), and share a binational house in Szatmárnémeti (Satu Mare). Their primary focus is the pastoral care of the Hungarians there, but they serve German speaking and Romanian faithful as well, this way continuously facing the challenges and at the same time fruits of cohabiting and -working with the representatives of other cultures and denominations.
Russia Seminars on the protection of minors in Russia began near Saratov, on the Volga, from May 20th to 21st 2019. The Catholic diocese in Saratov covers a territory that can be compared to France plus Spain and Portugal plus Italy, but it has only about 22,000 Catholics. The bishop, Mons. Clemens Pickel, invited all priests and religious who work in his diocese, plus the local directors of Caritas (about 100 persons altogether, who come from about 20 different countries of origin). The seminar was lead by Fr. Andrej Kačmar from Košice in Slovakia, who did his studies in the CCP in Rome and is now the director of the Slovakian center for child protection, by Anna Sokolova, a psychologist working with Caritas in St. Petersburg, and by Fr. Stephan Lipke SJ from the St. Thomas Institute in Moscow. It was the first time that the clergy of this diocese directly worked on the issue of sexual abuse, so the topic was discussed broadly. Generally speaking, abuse and violence is a crucial issue in Russia, where problems like the absence of clear personal relational boundaries, the over-sexualization of girls, alcoholism, broken families, etc. are present everywhere. Even outside of the question regarding abuse by clergy, the Church has to deal with the issue. It was striking that many participants wanted to talk to the speakers individually. Stephan Lipke SJ   A conference on child and youth protection in Budapest with P. Hans Zollner SJ A first of its kind conference was held in Budapest, Hungary on child and youth protection within the church. The event took place on the 24th and 25th of May and featured P. Hans Zollner SJ, president of the Centre for Child Protection of the Pontifical Gregorian University as keynote speaker. The co-organisers were the Ignatian Pedagogic Workshop and the Catholic Pedagogic Institute, both from Hungary. The conference was two fruitful days for more than 200 experts, teachers, who presented how wide a scale Hungarian Catholic institutions and communities work on child and youth protection. There were also presentations from NGO-s, school and church officials to showcase their best practice. The conference intended to outline the whole range of child and youth protection, in which preventing and handling sexual abuse is of key, but by far not of only importance. The work the experts are involved in include the following as well: Crisis and conflict management - Bullying - Digital challenges - Sexual education - Providing social aid for the ones in financial need - Developing social competence in schools While the other keynote speaker, Cirill Hortobágyi OSB, chief abbot of Pannonhalma Benedictine community, presented their model of safeguarding students in a boarding school, P. Hans Zollner SJ gave an outline of how acute the question is. He quoted the 2019 report of the European Council stating that worldwide not less than 1 billion children – that is one in every five – are exposed to sexual abuse. However, according to the surveys 95 per cent of the maltreatment take place in the family, and the greatest risk is a foster or stepfather: the chance of them being an abuser is seven times higher than that of the biological father. Although in the light of media coverages their ratio seems much higher, sexual molestation committed within institutions, including churches, do not exceed 5 per cent. Nonetheless, it is not by any means a neglectable figure. Cirill Hortobágyi and Hans Zollner mutually agreed that Catholic communities must undertake utmost responsibility for the most vulnerable ones, and providing minors a safe surrounding. In Hungary the Jesuits developed their policy on child and youth protection years ago, and implemented these guidelines in their educational institutions as well. Szőnyi Szilárd