Papal Visit

Pope Francis as Pontifex Maximus, the bridge-builder between people

More than 100,000 pilgrims registered so far to the papal mass in Csíksomlyó

The title that has been used by the leaders of the Catholic Church ever since the early Middle Ages, Pontifex Maximus can be translated as the greatest bridge-builder – pointed out the Bishop of Temesvár (Timişoara), József-Csaba Pál at the second press conference held in Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca) concerning the approaching papal visit. The members of the press committee in charge of the Csíksomlyó event of the program reviewed the latest developments regarding the preparations of the visit, and emphasized again the importance of the online registration. So far more than 100,000 pilgrims have registered and due to the large number of requests the organizers have extended registration until the 22nd of April.

“The visit of pope Francis could really be a bridge-building occasion between the different members of the community, between people belonging to different ethnic groups and denominations” – stated the bishop of Temesvár. As he said, “friends usually rejoice in the happiness of their friends. If we have managed to build good relationships with other denominations, they are naturally happy for the Pope’s tour and if not, his visit could be the help in building up these relations.” The bishop, who had spent his childhood in Csíksomlyó, also emphasized that the Franciscan church, the place of worship dedicated to the Virgin Mary, visited for centuries by pilgrims bringing their sorrows, their happiness and their love, has a distinct power of attraction: people can “actually feel the love of the Holy Mother, as well the urge to become a better person.”

The prebendary Zoltán Oláh, head of the press committee again stressed that the completion of the registration form on the website is indispensable for everyone willing to participate at the papal Mass. Organizers need to know exactly the number of pilgrims arriving so they can precisely communicate these data to the state services responsible for safety, who will determine the number of security gates needed. The number of emergency service teams, paramedics, and even that of eco-toilets can only be determined based on these information.

„We are preparing a historical event, so pilgrims have to comply with more regulations then during a customary Pentecost in Csíksomlyó, but these rules should not be seen as obstacles, and they are not impractical at all” – said Zoltán Oláh. On the registration platform one has to indicate the means of travel as well as the direction one plans to reach Csíksomlyó from, so the local authorities can prepare adequately. The prebendary has informed the press that 90 percent of the pilgrims registered so far will be arriving from Romania, mainly from the four Transylvanian Roman Catholic dioceses. Around 25,000 people plan to travel by train, just about the same with buses, and approximately 33,000 on foot, mostly from the neighboring villages of the Alcsík and Felcsík regions. Among those registered, about 150 people will be arriving on bikes and half a thousand on motorbikes. Traveling by car is not encouraged at all, as it is unsure that enough parking spaces will be available in Csíkszereda. Zoltán Oláh also said that 350 priests have registered to help perform the Mass and provide the Holy Communion. Organizers will start sending out the bar-coded passes to group leaders after the 1st of May, and every participant will have to present the printed pass at the security gates.

Member of the press committee, journalist Márta Bodó said that ideally at least 3 volunteers would be needed for every group of fifty to help solve eventual problems. So far more than 200 volunteers have registered on the website, and everyone in good health and above 16 years of age is welcome to volunteer. Ferenc Tischler, the head secretary of the Romanian Maltese Relief Service was also present at the press conference, emphasizing that volunteering confers a special spiritual experience that can only be experienced by doing this type of work. The Romanian Maltese Relief Service plans to accompany disabled people to the papal Mass. Having in mind that pope Francis will be in Csíksomlyó on June the 1st, the international children’s day, the Service will help some children belonging to unprivileged families as well to go to the Mass.

“In a way everyone present at the event should act a bit as a volunteer, by helping if someone falls down, gets tired or  lost” – concluded Márta Bodó.

Featured image: Members of the press committee in charge of the papal visit to Csíksomlyó and (second on the left) the bishop of Temesvár




Author: Éva Zay