As we have previously reported, Pope Francis attended a three-day pastoral and ecumenical visit to Romania from Friday to Sunday. During his visit, the Supreme Pontiff paid visits to the secular and religious heads of state and went on a pastoral tour – titled “Let’s walk together” – from Bucharest to Transylvania. He held a Holy Mass in Csíksomlyó in front of thousands of pilgrims. His visit concluded with the beatification of seven Greek-Catholic martyrs in Balázsfalva in Transylvania, all of whom died in communist prisons.
On the second day of his visit to Romania, the Pope presented a Latin Holy Mass – with Hungarian and Romanian translation – in the presence of about 160 priests at the community’s most important pilgrimage spot: the Csíksomlyó mountain. Pope John Paul II’s visit 20 years ago to Romania marked the first time in history that the head of the Roman Catholic Church visited an orthodox country. This occasion was also historic as it was the first time a pope has visited Transylvania.
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,” in his homily on Saturday at the Holy Mass in Csíksomlyó, presented in front of tens of thousands of believers.
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.
According to the Pope, pilgrims go to Csíksomlyó in order to find true brotherhood in one another. Pilgrimage is to feel the invitation and an urge to “walk together along the way and ask the Lord’s mercy to change our old and present grievances and distrust into new opportunities for the community.”
He emphasized that the pilgrimage means breaking away from our comfort zones, challenging us to discover and pass on the spirit of coexistence, and not to be afraid of creating shared experiences, and assisting one another. The Pope encouraged the believers not to look to the past during the pilgrimage, but rather to look for something that inevitably waits for them. He encouraged the attendees to pray together to the Virgin to teach them to foster a community of mutual understanding and respect.
More than 100,000 people registered for the papal mass, and pilgrims began to gather in the Csíksomlyó mountain range in the early morning hours in the pouring rain. Hungarian President János Áder, Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén, and Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila also participated in the Mass. The pope arrived at the venue in a popemobile specially created for this occasion by the Dacia car factory in Romania.
At the beatification ceremony of seven Greek Catholic martyr bishops in Balázsfalva, Pope Francis emphasized that just like during communism and similarly to the Transylvanian Greek Catholic bishops, we have to step up against destructive ideologies.
He stated that there are still ideologies that are trying to gain momentum in insidious ways, attempting to break people out of their richest cultural and religious heritages. “Colonial ideologies do not consider man, life, marriage and family to be of value; and they harm the young and our children with atheistic, destructive suggestions like in the past and with it, making them rootless,” he said.
The Pope also mentioned the 1568 Edict of Torda as the most valuable legacy of the region, where the freedom of religion and consciousness was first proclaimed in Europe.
“I encourage you to carry the light of the gospel to your contemporaries. Fight, just like the newly beatified against the appearing of new ideologies. Believe in freedom and compassion and let the brotherhood and dialogue triumph over division,” he said, adding that the brotherhood of blood was rooted in the era of suffering, when Christians, divided by history, realized that they were closer and in more solidarity to each other.
He also mentioned that the beatified bishops, the martyrs of faith, had given freedom and mercy to the people of Romania. The Pope said that the martyrs have suffered and sacrificed their lives because they opposed an ideological system that deprived people of their liberty and fundamental rights.
Another aspect of the martyrs’ spiritual heritage is mercy: not only were they loyal to Christ until their death, but they were ready for martyrdom without hating the people who persecuted them. Rather, they showed them goodness. Pope Francis added that this merciful behavior against their captors is a prophetic message to everyone and an invitation to overcome anger with love and forgiveness, and to live our Christian faith consistently and courageously. “May the protection of Our Lady and that of the new beatified ones accompany you on your way,” the head of the Church concluded his sermon.
As the last event of his three-day tour in Romania, the Pope visited the Roma community in Balázsfalva on Sunday and returned to Rome from Sibiu (Nagyszeben) Airport.