From the U.N. to Benedictine College, Hungary’s President Pleas for the Future of the Family

Peace and the family are the two most pressing concerns worldwide today, and they are closely related, said President Katalin Novák of Hungary.

In her visits to the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York and to Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, Hungary’s president, Katalin Novák connected the dots between the two issues that Pope John Paul II saw as the center of his efforts in the 21st century: Peace on earth and the future of the family.

Novak was elected president of Hungary in March, and made international headlines by reaffirming her commitment to her Christian faith and her identity in the family. “I will not take the cross from my neck, but I will press it to my heart,” she said. She promised “to be a good head of state who defends the family as the basis of sovereignty.”

Now, in September, she delivered that message to students at Benedictine College. She said she came to help more believers promote their faith in public policy. “Honestly, this is the highlight of my visit to the United States,” she told students. “I thought, ‘Let’s do something untraditional,’ and I wanted to meet you because you are the future.”

At the United Nations, President Novák delivered an impassioned call for peace.

“I’m standing in front of you today as the President of Hungary, the first woman president of my country, a wife, and mother of three children,” Katalin Novák said last week at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

There are 27 ongoing conflicts in the world, she said. “Right now, there’s not a single conflict described as ‘improving’” in the Council on Foreign Relations Global Conflict Tracker. They are all marked “unchanging” or “worsening.” She described how, in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Hungary is serving 1 million refugee families who will never be the same.

“She firmly condemned the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine,” reported the United Nations. “Since the beginning of this conflict, Hungarians have stood with the victims,” she said.

“War is evil and leads nowhere,” she said. “A war only has victims and the ones with the greatest losses are families — mothers and fathers who lose their children in the battlefield, wives who lose their husbands in the fighting, children who lose their brothers and sisters in the hell of war.”

Times of peace call for urgent family policies, too.

At Benedictine College on Sept. 26, Novák explained where her passion for the family comes from.

“I had the privilege of giving birth three times, which I would never trade for anything, or the chance to be a stay-at-home mother,” she told students. “I would like to believe my example helps people not give up on having a family and children.”

She summed up her political approach. “I’m for the protection of human life, the support of family and real freedom,” she said, and outlined some pro-family policies that are law in Hungary:

  • The Hungarian Constitution recognizes the humanity of the unborn explicitly. Numbers of abortions have dropped 50% in 10 years.
  • Mothers are eligible for family support as soon as a child is on the way. The nation earmarks 6.2% of the GDP to contribute to families.
  • Student loans payments are temporarily suspended for a mother who has her first child. Her loan is cut in half with her second child. With her third child, she no longer owes student loans.
  • Novák said the number of marriages in Hungary has doubled and the number of divorces has dropped.

These policy preferences speak to what is fundamental in us, she said. She made a strong plea for the family being the center of life, saying, “You can always be replaced in your workplace, but no one can replace you in your family.”

Can these family-centered policies exist in the United States?

The day Novák spoke at the United Nations, author and New York Times contributor Yuval Levin was visiting Benedictine College’s campus when the “Pro-Family Policy Agenda” he signed on to, along with Helen Alvaré and others at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, was released in Washington.

Saying “families are the foundation of a healthy society,” the 11-point program calls for action to:

  • Strengthen married couples by eliminating tax policies that favor cohabitation, and addressing the need for men and boys to be taught to be husbands and fathers.
  • Protect unborn children in law and health care policy — and by giving their parents the paid leave they need to care for them.
  • Empower parents by respecting their rights to raise their children according to their own beliefs, and finding economic ways to allow one parent to stay home or work part-time, and addressing increases in the cost of raising children.

Benedictine College’s Constitutional Fellows and Center for Family Life volunteers were invited to hear both Yuval Levin and President Novák. The document spells out a path American students can take to follow in their footsteps.

President Novák ended her remarks with a reference to St. John Paul II.

Benedictine College presented Katalin Novák with its John Paul II Distinguished Speaker award. Novák knows the legacy of John Paul II well. His call for freedom sparked a peaceful revolution that toppled the U.S.S.R. in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

In her remarks at Benedictine College, Novák said that “real freedom” is her fundamental message. Real freedom “means you don’t have to go with mainstream. You are free to have a real choice; think freely and speak freely. You don’t have to feel ashamed of your thoughts and feelings. You know your limits, you accept your limits, you respect your limits and you love your limits.”

After receiving the award, she said. “St. John Paul II said do not be afraid, so that will be my message to you as well. Don’t ever be afraid.”

Click here for pictures and more from Benedictine College about the visit of President Katalin Novák of Hungary.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. His book What Pope Francis Really Said is now available on Audible. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, Hoopes served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.