Eastern Europe’s Christian Reawakening

CATHEDRAL

In Hungary, Croatia, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, a pro-family, pro-life revolution and a rediscovery of Christian roots is occurring. While few in the American media have noticed, this trend should challenge those who simply lament Europe’s moral malaise. Unnoticed in the shadow of a secularized west, religion’s public role has been growing in the east since the collapse of communism.

Since taking power in 2010, Prime Minister Viktor Orban—a charismatic veteran of Hungary’s anti-Communist underground—has victoriously stood at the forefront of what Americans call the culture wars. In 2011, Orban’s government ratified a new constitution that defines marriage as the union of a man and woman, speaks of the rights of unborn Hungarians, and ties Christianity to Hungarian nationhood. In 2013, Orban’s government reintroduced—for the first time since before Communism—religious education in public schools. Meanwhile, Orban (the father of five children) has made the Hungarian tax code friendlier toward large families.

Orban himself can be said to symbolize Hungary’s reawakening. Born in 1963 to a nominally Calvinist family (Hungary is a mixed Protestant-Catholic country), Orban had no religious upbringing aside from being baptized. His father was a devout Communist, and while Christianity played a crucial role in the collapse of Communism across the Eastern Bloc, it did not in Hungary.

After the Vatican failed to protect Hungary’s courageous Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty and replaced anti-Communist bishops with collaborationist toadies as part of its 1960s policy of Ostpolitik, the Catholic Church (followed by its Protestant brothers) was either driven underground or collaborated with the regime. Hungary’s anti-Communist dissidents were largely anti-clerical.

Yet since the collapse of Communism, Hungarian society, like Orban, has started to rediscover its roots. Orban began to reclaim his Calvinist roots, thanks to his Catholic wife. He read voraciously about Christianity and in the 1990s received confirmation.

Another figure symbolizing Hungary’s spiritual renaissance is Cardinal Peter Erdo, one of the youngest members of the College of Cardinals, born in 1952 to a devout family that practiced its faith secretly. Since becoming the archbishop of Budapest, Erdo has enlisted young volunteers to knock on doors across Hungary, encouraging lapsed Catholics to return to their parishes. His voice has become influential in Hungarian society, as he has vocally condemned secularism, consumerism, poverty, anti-Semitism, and discrimination against Hungary’s Roma.

Evidence of the strength of Hungary’s spiritual renaissance is that Pope Francis has so far planned few foreign visits in the future, yet he has accepted an invitation to visit Hungary in 2016.

READ ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE: http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2014/01/eastern-europes-christian-reawakening

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