Pope Takes His Cry for Continental Unity and Peace to Hungary : Eastern Europe: Pontiff praises move toward democracy but cautions that freedom doesn't cure all.


Beginning his first visit to Hungary, Pope John Paul II bowed in tribute to one of the Cold War's fiercest anti-Communists on Friday, but he told East Europeans that new-found democracy alone cannot cure all of their problems.

The pontiff, looking refreshed after a three-day stop in his native Poland, brought to Hungary the same cry for continental unity that he left with his countrymen. John Paul believes that the failure of communism makes it possible for Europe to build a shared "new home" from the Urals to the Atlantic on the foundation of its shared Christian heritage and values.

"This appeal to unity, justice and peace is not simply the result of political or economic negotiations in which useful compromises can be reached," the Pope said in an arrival statement here. "Justice and peace, these indispensable conditions for the building of a truly human society, are only constructed on those ultimate and eternal moral values on which every human life is based."

Hungary was one of the most open Eastern European countries under communism and, with Poland, the first to jettison Marxism in favor of democratic reform and free market economics.

Welcoming the Pope to a country where 60% of its 10 million people are nominal Catholics but only about a third of these practice their faith, Hungarian President Arpad Goncz hailed John Paul's role as catalyst in the peaceful 1989 revolution that purged Eastern Europe of one-party rule. Hungary, Goncz said proudly, "has already regained its sovereignty."

Soviet domination may have ended, but disillusionment fueled by economic distress has replaced early euphoria throughout Eastern Europe as societies in transition accommodate painfully to new ways. Amid inflation and declining real income, the mood in Hungary is particularly morose, opinion polls show.

John Paul praised the break toward democracy in a nation which last year chose a non-Marxist government in its first free elections in four decades. But, he cautioned, freedom's forms are no panacea.

"I congratulate you on the steps you have already taken in this new direction, even though the experiences you have had in the meantime have shown you that freedom is never exempt from risks, but rather involves a price of its own, which can also at times be very high," the Pope said. "You are now fully aware that the new climate of freedom does not by itself resolve all the problems of your life."

It will take a spiritual and moral consensus to allow Hungary--and by implication the other transforming countries of Eastern Europe--to cross the threshold of a "new era . . . of a peaceful community of nations united among themselves," John Paul said.

As he looked to the future for a theme he will likely develop in the next four days of journeys through Hungary, the Pope on Friday visited the small Danube River town of Esztergom, where he came face-to-face with the past.

There, he kissed the tombstone of Cardinal Josef Mindszenty, a stubborn Hungarian patriot who became the paramount example of Catholic opposition to Communist rule in Eastern Europe during the Cold War.

Tortured, then sentenced to life imprisonment in 1949 on fabricated charges of treason, Mindszenty was freed during the short-lived Hungarian uprising in 1956 and took refugee in the U.S. legation here when Soviet troops moved in.

He remained there until 1971 before bitterly accepting a safe conduct to leave the country as part of a simultaneous campaign of detente by the Vatican and the Administration of President Richard M. Nixon.

Mindszenty died in Austria in 1975, leaving instructions that his body was not to be returned to Hungary until "the Red Star of faithless Moscow" had finally fallen.

His remains were brought home from Mariazell, Austria, last May and reburied at Esztergom, about 40 miles from the Hungarian capital and the historic seat of Hungary's Roman Catholic primate.

John Paul paid tribute to Mindszenty as a man "who left behind a shining testimony of devotion to Christ and the church as well as of patriotism."

"We will always remember his name with a blessing," he said.

Some Hungarians hoped the Pope would use his visit to launch Mindszenty toward sainthood, but the Vatican, preoccupied less with Europe's yesterday than with its tomorrow, showed no sign of doing so.

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