When President Klaus Iohannis of Romania formally invited Pope Francis to visit the country in May 2015, his invitation “was accepted with pleasure,” but the exact date of the arrival was subject to lengthy consultations through diplomatic channels. Finally, after nearly four years of discussions, the Holy See has announced that the visit will take place from May 31 to 2 June, and that the pope will visit three cities, plus a pilgrimage site in the heart of Transylvania. The latter is the place where, each year, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims come to Székelyföld, to the Csíksomlyó Saddle, on Pentecost Saturday to participate in the largest religious and ritual event of Catholics in the Carpathian Basin, on the Pentecost Pilgrimage of Csíksomlyó/Șumuleu Ciuc.
The southwest basin of Csík is divided in two regions, Felcsík and Alcsík, by the hill of Nagysomlyó. Csíksomlyó/Șumuleu Ciuc sits at the foot of the hill at the southern corner of Felcsík. The name Somlyó originates from Turkish, and it means pinewood.
Csíksomlyó/Șumuleu Ciuc was first mentioned in the papal tax-collector records under the name of Sumbov in 1333 and then a year later as Sumlov, the website dedicated to the pilgrimage site reads.
When you come as a pilgrim to Csíksomlyó/Șumuleu Ciuc, you need to go through Csíkszereda/Miercurea Ciuc, one of the coldest cities in Romania and the home to winter sport in the region, according to the page created by the wonderful guys at Cognitive Creators. You’ll also find that Csíkszereda can be considered a mostly Catholic city populated by 41,000 inhabitants. Of those, 82.5% are Hungarian, and 17.46% Romanian, creating a “vivid town with a higher birth rate than mortality rate, and countless well-preserved customs and traditions by the local communities.”
The city of Csíkszereda/Miercurea Ciuc hosts a variety of events, but for 453 years there has been a special day on which the whole city breathes as one: Pentecost Saturday. This is the time of the year when hundreds of thousands of people arrive in Csíkszereda and walk the few miles to the Csíksomlyó/Șumuleu Ciuc saddle and fill up the space with patience and joy.
This pilgrimage site is the final destination of the Hungarian El Camino, the 1400 km Maria pilgrimage route connecting Mariazell with Csíksomlyó/Șumuleu Ciuc. Pope Francis will honor this place with a holy mass on June 1, just a week before Pentecost Saturday, when the saddle is filled up again with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. The Papal Visit was declared to be a votive pilgrimage by archbishop György Jakubinyi, which means that participating in the Pope’s mass would count the same as participating at the Pentecost Pilgrimage itself. This is a big help for those pilgrims who are not from the area and who have to travel hundreds or even thousands of kilometers to Csíksomlyó/Șumuleu Ciuc, and who would not be able to attend both events.
As we previously reported, Pope Francis will arrive in Bucharest on May 31 and will celebrate a mass at the St Joseph Roman Catholic church in the Romanian capital. Following his visit in Csíksomlyó, he will visit the Queen Mary cathedral in Jászváros/Iași, and on June 2 he will take part in the official beatification of seven Greek–Catholic martyred bishops in Balázsfalva/Blaj.
His three-day visit to our country will be followed by other international visits to countries including Mozambique, Madagascar, and Mauritius in early September, and to Japan in November.