The state ceremony was attended by President Janos Ader, House Speaker Laszlo Kover, government members and diplomats.
As a traditional part of the ceremony, young army officers took their oaths after hoisting the flag.
In his address to the new officers, Ader said that the nation should take a joint effort “to build a new security for our civic democracy in the 21st century”.
“Building security is up to us, all citizens of Hungary,” the president said, adding that “our world resembles less and less the old one we are accustomed to”.
Ader referred to Stephen I, the founder of Hungarian statehood, and the kings that followed him on the throne, who were committed to building a safe and stable state for the people.
“Hungarians have always found a way to renew that heritage and they could only rely on themselves in those efforts,” Ader added.
Saint Stephen’s legacy suggests “responsibility and loving assistance”, Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Budapest-Esztergom, said at a traditional August 20 mass celebrated in front of Saint Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest.
In his sermon, Erdo said that “the thousands of people coming to Hungary pose further and further questions to all of us”. He said that the current wave of international migration “exceeds far above our individual or national capacities” but added that “people must face things they may not fully understand; they must act and often there is no time for consideration”.
Speaking at a ceremony in Hodmezovasarhely, government office chief Janos Lazar referred to Saint Stephen as having been not only a founder of statehood but a builder of a Christian Europe. “August 20 is about that dual responsibility; Hungary’s role arising from its geographical location has not changed,” he said, and compared Hungary to a fortress defending the borders of Europe.
Concerning immigrants from southern and eastern countries to Europe, Lazar said that they were “not an enemy but a burden”. He insisted that neither Hungary nor Europe has the strength to cope with that extra burden: “if we do nothing, we could become a rescue ship sinking under the weight and then all will drown”.
Celebrations of Saint Stephen’s Day were held across the country and in Hungarian communities in neighbouring countries. The official celebrations are to conclude with fireworks to be held in central Budapest starting at 9pm.
Istvan Bence Tordai, spokesman of the opposition PM party said that Hungary could become successful and strong through openness and diversity instead of rejection and exclusion.
The opposition Democratic Coalition said in a statement that Hungary has left the path chosen by Saint Stephen and it should return to constitutional order and European values.
The opposition Egyutt said Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government goes against the tradition marked by Saint Stephen because the interests of Hungary’s leaders and the people currently contradict each other.