Culture

Pope Francis’ visit to Transylvania: On a narrow plank

2 months ago

Pope Francis’ visit to Romania – more exactly the Mass in Transylvania – evokes a difficult heritage and cool heads must prevail, Magyar Nemzet columnist Attila Ballai writes.

“The week of Hungarian Christianity in Transylvania” has an uplifting sound to it. The week of Hungarian Christianity in Romania – not so much. Yet both are equally true because both according to international law and public perception Transylvania has for a century been part of Romania. Disregarding this fact is not a sign of patriotism but one of irresponsibility.

We have just given you the news that the Hungarian government declared the week from the Pope’s visit to the traditional Csíksomlyó pilgrimage the week of Hungarian Christianity. The aim is to forge stronger links between all Hungarians across the Carpathian Basin – even in the heart of what is now Romania.

The history of papal visits to Romania must also be mentioned: in 1999, Pope John Paul II was the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to visit a country with an Orthodox majority since the great schism in the year 1054. But his hosts were still very much opposed to him visiting Transylvania – and the Polish Pope accepted the condition for political reasons.

With such a momentous event, it is inevitable that there will be voices – perhaps drunken ones – that will hurt the Romanians. But overall, the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims will have to walk a narrow plank: they will want to show that they are Hungarians and that this is their home, but at the same time also show that this is not against anyone else, but meant for their own spiritual salvation.

With the 100th anniversary of the Trianon Treaty – giving a significant part of Hungary to Romania – coming up next year, it is all the more imperative to find a common past in order to have a common future. Because for healthy nations, the past doesn’t change.

Title image: Pilgrims at Csíksomlyó/Şumuleu Ciuc.