The Csíksomlyó Pilgrimage is confirmed to be held this year under Covid protocols and with a controlled number of people, the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) announced. In accordance with this, only the local population will be allowed to attend.
On May 22, 2021, Catholics will once again be gathering in Szeklerland for the Pentecostal pilgrimage of Csíksomlyó (Șumuleu Ciuc), but with more precautions in place for everyone’s safety.
The Romanian government has extended its state of emergency but has also lightened restrictions. RMDSZ said that to the request of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), Romania has decided that “pilgrimages can be held with social distancing and participants wearing masks.”
The Csíksomlyó Pilgrimage has been a fundamental part of Szekler society for centuries. The practice of gathering on Pentecost originates
from a battle that occurred that day in 1567, when the army of John Sigismund Zápolya, king of Hungary and prince of Transylvania, attempted to forcefully convert the Catholic locals to Unitarianism. Zápolya was unable to achieve his goal, as the united army of Szeklers from Csík, Gyergyó and Kászon successfully repelled his army in the Hargita mountains. The victors, having prayed to the Virgin Mary in Csíksomlyó prior to the battle, vowed to return to the site every Pentecost Saturday, a practice which the Szeklers have maintained until this day.
Romanian Minister of Health Raed Arafat clarified that “only the local population can take part in Church pilgrimages and processions.” According to Arafat, the state of emergency is necessary until the pandemic situation calms down, since it allows the government to step in quickly and provide aid in the case of an emergency.
Hunor Kelemen, president of RMDSZ and deputy prime minister of Romania, named the Csíksomlyó Pilgrimage one of the most meaningful Christian events for all Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin. He explained that
The community of Csíkszereda (Miercurea Ciuc) proved in exemplary fashion at Easter that with adherence to community health guidelines, it can take part in mass in a self-disciplined manner. I am certain that this same self-discipline will represent all those pilgrims who will visit here this year.”
While it may not be the same, this year will definitely be a step closer to what people are used to than 2020, when pilgrims were not allowed to attend.
Featured photo illustration by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI