BUDAPEST, Hungary (ChurchMilitant.com) - Hungarian bishops reacted swiftly to a Budapest district mayor who accused Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz Party of representing a "frightening formation" of "white, Christian, heterosexual" people.
Mayor Péter Niedermüller, head of the Hungarian capital's Erzsébetváros district, said on a Jan. 23 talk show that "If you strip away ... hated delineations ... non-Hungarians, others, migrants, Roma — I don't know what — then there is this frightening formation left in the middle: white, Christian, heterosexual men," adding, "and there are of course [some] women among them."
Niedermüller, head of the leftist Democratic Coalition (DK) Party, explained that this "frightening formation" represents "the family concept" for Orbán and his followers.
The Hungarian Catholic Bishops' Conference's permanent council responded to Niedermüller's tirade on Jan. 29: "Christians are being stigmatized because of their faith in Hungary in 2020."
"We are saddened and shocked to learn that ... it may happen that publicly generalized Christian people are labeled for their faith and religious affiliation, as may have been the case today with an elected official," they added.
Alluding to Hungary's recent communist history, they continued: "This attitude, which evokes tragic memories, is unacceptable and we strongly urge all those in political life, irrespective of their convictions and affiliations, to carry out their work for the common good, while upholding ethical and moral standards."
"Our faith, our culture, our history teaches us to respect each other and the human dignity of the other, even if our views are not the same," the bishops added.
The leftist politician hedged, saying that he was talking about the government's concept of family and that he still thinks that the government's concept of family as white, Christian, and heterosexual is frightening to him.
He said he doesn't accept "this family concept," calling it "unrealistic," lamenting "same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting don't have a place there."
Niedermüller's DK Party defended him, arguing that he "talked about the fact that Fidesz's worldview — which has a lot in common with nationalist thinking — is about exclusion, enemy production and racism. And this worldview might result in that only white, heterosexual men wouldn't be excluded from society."
They also denied that Niedermüller is an exclusionist or a Christian-hater.
Orbán's Chief of Staff Gergely Gulyás also responded to Niedermüller's remarks at the government's weekly press conference, saying that the mayor himself is "racist," and his "sort of ideology has no place in European politics.
Thousands of lay supporters of the Hungarian prime minister and the Fidesz Party also raised their voices against Niedermüller's comments, gathering in front of Erzsébetváros' City Hall and calling on the mayor to resign.
The demonstrators carried crucifixes, Hungarian flags and placards written in Hungarian and English that said, "Say no to racism and discrimination."
Boglárka Illés, chairwoman of Fidelitas, the youth branch of the Fidesz Party, spoke at the protest and urged Niedermüller to withdraw from public affairs, stressing that if his words are left without consequences, "the public discourse will hit another low point thanks to the leftist-liberals."
Another speaker, Tristan Azbej, head of the Deputy State Secretariat Responsible for Aiding Persecuted Christians, said: "It is unacceptable to attack people because of their Christian faith, as Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world."
Azbej said that Christians are being killed in the East, while in the West, they are humiliated by politicians like Niedermüller.
"We have to stand up to managers of hatred," he said, adding that when his grandparents' generation could not stand up to anti-Christian policies in the 1940s, an era of "blood and dictatorship" ensued, and "the communists are here again, but we won't let history repeat itself."
Members of the Permanent Council of the Hungarian Catholic Episcopal Conference include Dr. András Veres, bishop of Győr; Dr. György Udvardy, archbishop of Veszprém; Cdl. Péter Erdő, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest; and Dr. Csaba Ternyák, archbishop of Eger.