But Mr. Ivanyi’s church had around 18,000 declared followers, and his work and faith were — and still are — widely praised by other religious leaders.
“He helps the homeless, the poor, the refugees — he is doing what is written in the Gospel,” said Miklos Beer, the Roman Catholic bishop of Vac, a small city north of Budapest. The decision to delist Mr. Ivanyi’s church, Bishop Beer said, was a political one that “has nothing to do with Christianity as a religion.”
It also had a restraining effect on the 14 institutions that were allowed to keep their official status, Bishop Beer said. As Mr. Orban introduced laws that targeted homeless people and asylum seekers, Hungary’s official churches remained either silent, in the case of the Roman Catholic church, or supported Mr. Orban’s position.
“They just don’t touch sensitive issues — migration, the homeless law, the situation of the Roma,” Bishop Beer said. “There is a sense within even the larger churches of a need to hold back.”
“I feel a bit of shame, personally,” he added.
By contrast, Mr. Ivanyi did not keep silent. In both word and deed, he repeatedly challenged the prime minister, continuing to provide services to the homeless and refugees, even giving one Afghan a room in his own home. And he often questioned Mr. Orban’s presentation of Hungary as a monoethnic country, and his claims of governing by Christian principles.
“What he does is against the teachings of Christ,” Mr. Ivanyi said recently. “It is the exact opposite of what the Bible preaches about treating the poor, about justice, about responsible service.”