Francis celebrated Mass at the Șumuleu Ciuc shrine, in Transylvania, a Hungarian-speaking area, before at least 100,000 people. “To go on pilgrimage,” he said, “is to participate in that somewhat chaotic sea of people that can give us a genuine experience of fraternity, to be part of a caravan that can together, in solidarity, create history”.
Bucharest (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis celebrated Mass today dedicated to Mary Mother of the Church near the Șumuleu Ciuc shrine. As he did yesterday on his first day in Romania, the pontiff called on the people of Romania to walk together past old divisions and rifts. Going on pilgrimage, noted the Holy Father, means feeling “called and compelled to journey together, asking the Lord for the grace to change past and present resentments and mistrust into new opportunities for fellowship.”
Historically, Șumuleu Ciuc, where Francis arrived by plane from Bucharest, has been a place of pilgrimage that not even Romania’s Communist regime was able to shut down. As the shrine is located in Transylvania, pilgrims come from all over Romania as well as Hungary.
The area is still home to a substantial Hungarian-speaking community. The choir and many pilgrims donned traditional Hungarian costumes. Some of the prayers recited during the Mass were in Hungarian.
The altar where the Pope celebrated the service is called the Three Hill Altar because it represents the three hills where the patriarchal cross, a Hungarian heraldic symbol of the 13th century, stands.
In his homily, Francis stressed the value of "pilgrimage" in such a place before a crowd of at least 100,000 who came for the Mass.
“Here, every year, on the Saturday before Pentecost, you come on pilgrimage to honour the vow made by your ancestors, and to strengthen your own faith in God and your devotion to Our Lady, before her monumental wooden statue. This annual pilgrimage is part of the heritage of Transylvania, but at the same time it honours Romanian and Hungarian religious traditions. The faithful of other confessions take part in it, and it is thus a symbol of dialogue, unity and fraternity. It invites us to rediscover the witness of living faith and hope-filled life.
“To go on pilgrimage is to realize that we are in a way returning home as a people, a people whose wealth is seen its myriad faces, cultures, languages and traditions. The holy and faithful People of God who in union with Mary advance on their pilgrim way singing of the Lord’s mercy. In Cana of Galilee, Mary interceded with Jesus to perform his first miracle; in every shrine, she watches over us and makes intercession, not only with her Son but also with each of us, asking that we not let ourselves be robbed of our fraternal love by those voices and hurts that provoke division and fragmentation. Complicated and sorrow-filled situations from the past must not be forgotten or denied, yet neither must they be an obstacle or an excuse standing in the way of our desire to live together as brothers and sisters.
“To go on pilgrimage is to feel called and compelled to journey together, asking the Lord for the grace to change past and present resentments and mistrust into new opportunities for fellowship. It means leaving behind our security and comfort and setting out for a new land that the Lord wants to give us. To go on pilgrimage means daring to discover and communicate the “mystique” of living together, and not being afraid to mingle, to embrace and to support one another. To go on pilgrimage is to participate in that somewhat chaotic sea of people that can give us a genuine experience of fraternity, to be part of a caravan that can together, in solidarity, create history (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 87).
“To go on pilgrimage is to look not so much at what might have been (and wasn’t), but at everything that awaits us and cannot be put off much longer. It is to believe in the Lord who is coming and even now is in our midst, inspiring and generating solidarity, fraternity, and the desire for goodness, truth and justice (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 71). It is to commit ourselves to ensuring that the stragglers of yesterday can become the protagonists of tomorrow, and that today’s protagonists do not become tomorrow’s stragglers. This requires a certain skill, the art of weaving the threads of the future. That is why we are here today, to say together: Mother teach us to weave the future.”
Lastly, “The Lord does not disappoint those who take a risk. Let us journey, then, and journey together, allowing the Gospel to be the leaven that permeates everything and fills our peoples with the joy of salvation.
After the Mass, the Pope offered a golden rose to the statue of Mary, carried to the altar. The image, over 2 metres high, all in wood, was made between 1515 and 1520, miraculously surviving a fire set by the Turks in 1661. (FP)