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Csíksomlyói búcsú, 2019 június 08.

The Pentecost Pilgrimage of Csíksomlyó and its site is now listed as ‘Hungaricum,’ according to the Hungarikum Committee’s decision announced on Thursday. The pilgrimage of Csíksomlyó is one of the most significant religious feasts of Hungarians around the world, a sign of national unity.

‘Hungaricum’ is a collective term indicating a value worthy of distinction within a unified system of qualification, classification, and registry which represents the high performance of Hungarian people thanks to its typically Hungarian attributes, uniqueness, specialty, and quality. The Hungarikum Committee, established in October 2012, founder of this title, has labeled 75 Hungaricums so far. The committee’s main role is to protect, maintain, and make widely popular the outstanding national values.

The Pentecost Pilgrimage of Csíksomlyó is the largest religious and ritual event of Catholics in the Carpathian Basin, an event in the area around the Franciscan monastery. Csíksomlyó consists of the Pilgrimage Church, the Franciscan Monastery, and the surrounding area. The story of Csíksomlyó began between the 12th – 13th centuries. It was mentioned in the papal tax-collector records as early as 1333.

The 452nd Csíksomlyó Pilgrimage in Pictures

“The decision of the Hungarikum Committee is a great pleasure and honor for us since the pilgrimage of Csíksomlyó is a feast for all Hungarians around the world, the feast that supplies spiritual and mental resources to Hungarians year by year. We are grateful that the Pentecost pilgrimage of Csíksomlyó and the shrine is listed together with the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit, the Benedictine Pannonhalma Archabbey and its surroundings, the intellectual heritage of Count István Széchenyi, or the Kodály method,” said Csilla Hegedüs, executive vice-president of RMDSZ (Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania), head of department of culture. She underscored that more than half a million pilgrims gather for the feast every year, not only from Transylvania but from all over the world. “Csíksomlyó is seen as the symbol for preserving faith and cultural identity, that is why we celebrate this decision,” she added.

The Pentecost pilgrimage of Csíksomlyó was nominated for the award to the Hungarikum Committee by RMDSZ in 2018, supported by the Transylvanian Franciscan Order.

A few years earlier, the pilgrimage shrine had a promising chance to be included in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO. “In 2011, Romanian Minister of Culture, Hunor Kelemen and his team initiated a procedure to include the pilgrimage in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Representatives of the Roman Catholic community, the local administration authorities, cultural institutions, non-governmental organizations, and professional associations backed the nomination of the Pilgrimage of Csíksomlyó to be included in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage,” writes Csilla Hegedüs in an article explaining the initiative and the later turnaround of the Romanian government. In 2016, when the final decision was about to be made by UNESCO, the Romanian government withdrew its support for the inclusion of the Pilgrimage of Csiksomlyó in the UNESCO list.

„This is also the first time in Romanian history that a so-called technocrat government perceived Hungarian pilgrims and their devotion as a threat. Despite all this, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims go each year to Csíksomlyó to pray for the souls of everyone,” reflects the author of the article, about the unprecedented change of approach by the Romanian government.

Csíksomlyó drew the attention of the world in 2019, during Pope Francis’s three-day pastoral and ecumenical visit to Romania. The Supreme Pontiff presented a Holy Mass in the presence of about 160 priests at the community’s most important pilgrimage spot: the Csíksomlyó mountain.

In his homily at the Holy Mass in Csíksomlyó, presented in front of tens of thousands of believers, Pope Francis said that “the pilgrimage to Csíksomlyó is a legacy of Transylvania, a sign of dialogue, unity, and fraternity, which respects Romanian and Hungarian religious traditions.” The head of the Catholic Church told the believers not to forget and deny the complex and sad events of the past, but reminded them that these should not be barriers to fraternal coexistence, nor should they feed the separation.

Pope Francis in Transylvania: “Csíksomlyó is a sign of dialogue, unity and fraternity”

Notwithstanding the significance of Pope Francis’s visit and his call to Romanians and Hungarians for fraternal coexistence, recent developments in bilateral relations close to the centenary of the Trianon treaty does not seem to embrace the message.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis made a statement last month accusing Romania’s social democratic party of “secretly trying” to “return Transylvania to Hungary.” According to the National Anti-Discrimination Council, the Romanian President violated the human dignity of Hungarian nationals in Romania with the accusation.

In a demonstrative move just before the 100th anniversary of the Trianon Treaty which handed Transylvania to Romania in the wake of World War One, both houses of the Romanian Parliament declared June 4th a national holiday, to be commemorated throughout the country. Commentators deplore the decision by the Romanian parliament as insensitive to the feelings of ethnic Hungarians and ascribe it to irrational fears which survive despite sweeping changes in the past century.

Pentecost Pilgrimage to Csíksomlyó remains a strong foothold of hope that the inseparable history of Romanians and Hungarians bears more fruits of fraternity in the future, rather than hatred.

Sharing the fate of many other historical traditions broken by the current coronavirus pandemic, the pilgrimage to Csíksomlyó will also be exceptional this year. As the shrine site cannot receive hundreds of thousands of pilgrims due to the virus, the event will be broadcasted via television and the internet. Nevertheless, sometimes a forced change in the course of events turns out to be the beginning of a new era that surpasses old conflicts. Right now, we do not know if Pentecost in 2020 will be of that kind. Time will tell.

Featured photo by Nándor Veres/MTI