St. Martin, the patron saint of the social market economy
11. 11. 2016.
Speaking in the Parliament Building on Thursday, at a church conference entitled “St. Martin and Europe”, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán described St. Martin of Tours as “the patron saint of the social market economy”. Mr. Orbán said that not only was the saint’s heart in the right place, but he also possessed common sense: according to legend, when he was a soldier he once cut his cloak into two and gave half to a beggar, thus ensuring that both of them would be protected from the extreme cold.

In his closing speech at the ceremonial conference jointly organised by the Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Government – which itself brought to a close the Memorial Year of St. Martin – Mr. Orbán said that social solidarity is not an abstract concept, but tangible and rational behaviour. In his words, we must always help others – as far as our own strength and potential allows – by giving those in need their necessary and appropriate share. This is a joint mission, he added, in which the Hungarian government can rely upon the Catholic Church as one of its principal allies.

Photo: Károly Árvai/

The Prime Minister went on to say that in St. Martin’s practical act of compassion one can immediately see an impulse which gives meaning to dry statements of revenue and expenditure. This, he said, is because in order to give something to those who have nothing, we also need people who have something to give. We therefore need committed people, businesses and a government policy which show both heart and common sense. No matter “how infinite our heart may be when we see the suffering of others, our capacities will still have limits”, he added.

Mr. Orbán said that the imperative to exercise mercy must never be equated with our own ruination: a small country must cut its coat according to its cloth, or else it will only be a matter of time before its economy collapses.

Photo: Károly Árvai/

The Prime Minister also said that for Hungarians St. Martin is not just one saint among many, but a person whose name became synonymous with conversion to Christianity and establishment of the Hungarian state. In the 21st century, Mr. Orbán said, the saint’s story is a touchstone for us and an example to be followed which we should reflect on: “he sets an example in the fight for faith, an example of humility in the exercise of power, and an example of mercy in turning towards others” .

Among those attending the forum were Apostolic Nuncio Alberto Botta de Castello, several members of the Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference and Dalma Mádl, widow of Ferenc Mádl, the second President of the Third Republic of Hungary.

Photo: Károly Árvai/

The Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference announced the Memorial Year of St. Martin to mark the 1,700th anniversary of the saint’s birth, and the Government joined the initiative. The series of events was opened at the Benedictine Archabbey of Pannonhalma last November by President of Hungary János Áder and Cardinal Péter Erdő.