Pope Francis begins on Friday a three-day apostolic visit to Romania, His Holiness being awaited by the authorities, hierarchs and pilgrims in Bucharest, Sumuleu-Ciuc, Iasi and Blaj.
Under the generic title of "Let us walk together!", 20 years after John Paul II's historic visit, Pope Francis' state visit to Romania, which includes eight speeches in just three days in front of political and religious authorities, the beatification of seven Greek-Catholic martyrs and a meeting with the Roma community has a strong Marian imprint.
"My dear brothers and sisters from Romania, there are only a few days to the journey that will bring me in your midst. I rejoice at this thought, and as of now I would like to convey to you my most cordial greetings. I come to Romania, a beautiful and welcoming country, as a pilgrim and brother, and I thank the President and the other state authorities for inviting me and for their full cooperation. I already feel the joy of meeting with the Patriarch and the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, as well as with Catholic pastors and believers. I come amidst you so that we can walk together. We walk together when we learn, to preserve the roots and the family, when we take care of the future of the children and the brother next to us, when we overcome our fears and suspicions, when we drop the barriers that separate us from the others," was the message of the Pontiff, conveyed only a few days before arriving in Romania.
Bucharest - the first stage of the visit to Romania
Friday, at 11:30 hrs, Pope Francis will arrive in Bucharest and will be welcomed by President Klaus Iohannis at the Henri Coanda International Airport.
The official reception ceremony at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace is scheduled for 12:05 hrs. The two high officials will hold private talks, followed by a meeting with Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, other authorities, representatives of the civil society and the diplomatic corps. On this occasion, in the presence of about 400 guests, president Iohannis and Pope Francis will deliver speeches.
During the afternoon, starting 15:45 hrs, the Pontiff will have a private meeting with the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Daniel, at the Patriarchal Palace, after which His Holiness will meet at 16:15 hrs with the Holy Synod of BOR.
Pope Francis will then go to the National Cathedral at 17:00 hrs, the program of the visit including the "Lord's prayer" in Latin, followed by Catholic Easter chants. They will be followed by the "Lord's Prayer" in Romanian, and by Orthodox Easter chants. According to the Romanian Patriarchate, "the program does not include the celebration of a common liturgical service, but distinct and consecutive musical moments, according to the decision of the Holy Synod and the practice of the Romanian diaspora when the same place of worship is used."
Upon leaving the Cathedral, Patriarch Daniel and Pope Francis will greet the faithful present with the Easter salutation "Christ has risen!"
From 18:10 hrs, the Sovereign Pontiff will attend the Holy Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of St. Joseph, where he will utter a homily. The Holy Mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral, where representatives of the Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic Church estimated the participation of over 25,000 believers, will take an hour and 20 minutes.
Saturday - visits to Sumuleu-Ciuc and Iasi
On Saturday, on the second day of his visit to Romania, Pope Francis will travel to the Marian Shrine at Sumuleu-Ciuc, where he will celebrate the Holy Mass as of 11:30 hrs, at the altar in the saddle of the Sumuleu Mountain; each year, this is an important pilgrimage place on Catholic Pentecost, which this year falls on June 9.
Sumuleu-Ciuc, located in Harghita County, hosts the Minor Basilica dedicated to the Holy Virgin and belonging to the Franciscan Order. The baroque church was consecrated in 1876, and in 1948 Pope Pius XII raised it to the rank of Minor Basilica.
A large traditional Szekely gate adorned with symbols specific to the Ciuc region has already been set up in the vicinity of the altar where Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at Sumuleu-Ciuc.
The more than 500 years old wonder-working statue of the Virgin Mary from Sumuleu-Ciuc, carved in linden wood - the world's largest of its kind - will be taken out of the Franciscan church for the first time after World War II, and will be moved to the altar where the Pope will celebrate the Divine Liturgy.
Also on Saturday, as of 17:25, the Pontiff will visit the "Queen Saint Mary" Roman Catholic Cathedral in Iasi, where approximately 800 sick and elderly people will greet him.
After that, the Holy Father will travel by Popemobile to the Culture Palace Square to attend as of 17:45 the "Marian Gathering" with young people and families, and where he will deliver a speech.
Beatification of the seven martyred Greek-Catholic bishops - on Sunday, on the Blaj Liberty Field
On Sunday, on the last day of his visit to Romania, Pope Francis will be in Blaj where he will attend Divine Liturgy with the beatification of seven martyred Greek-Catholic bishops.
The Pontiff has authorised as early as this March the recognition of the martyrdom of seven Romanian Greek Catholic bishops: Valeriu Traian Frentiu, Vasile Aftenie, Ioan Suciu, Titus Liviu Chinezu, Ioan Balan, Alexandru Rusu and Iuliu Hossu - who were killed out of hatred to faith, between 1950 - 1970.
*** Eight large screens will be mounted on the Blaj Liberty Field and another one in the 1848 Square of Blaj for the pilgrims to be able to watch under the best conditions the beatification ceremony presided over by Pope Francis, and the cultural and religious program that will unfold in the hours before the arrival of the Pontiff.
Approximately 600 volunteers wearing custom T-shirts will be present in Blaj.
Also in Blaj, the Pontiff has a nearly one-hour meeting scheduled with representatives of the Roma minority, in a church devoted to the Saint Apostle Andrew and the Blessed Bishop Ioan Suciu. The place of worship was built in just three months by the Romanian Church United with Rome, Greek-Catholic, with the financial support of the Alba County Council, the Blaj City Hall and sponsors, on the site of a former mill, in the "Barbu Lautaru" neighborhood, where most of the Roma community - representing more than a tenth of Blaj's population - lives.
The visit to Romania of Pope Francis will end on Sunday with a goodbye ceremony at 17:20 hrs, held in the presence of President Klaus Iohannis, at Sibiu International Airport, from where the papal plane will take off to Rome at 17.30 hrs.
During his apostolic visit, the Pontiff will celebrate the Holy Mass in Latin, the Word of God will be proclaimed in the Romanian language, and the sermon of His Holiness will be uttered in Italian. The chants will be in both Romanian and Latin. Also at the Sanctuary of Virgin Mary at Sumuleu-Ciuc, the Holy Mass will be celebrated in Latin, and the Word of God will be proclaimed in Romanian and in Hungarian. Here, the sermon of His Holiness will be uttered in Italian. The chants, for the most part, will be in Hungarian.
For this historic event, the National Bank of Romania launched in the numismatic circuit, for collection purposes, gold and brass coins and put into circulation a brass coin with the theme "The Apostolic Journey of His Holiness Pope Francis in Romania" and Romfilatelia will introduce as of Friday, the postage stamps issue "Romania - Vatican 2019. The Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis in Romania".
Two specially carved wooden crates with wine produced by Cotnari Company, occasioned by Pope Francis' visit to Romania, will be offered to the Pontiff. The crates contain Grasa de Cotnari wine from the harvests of the years 1969, 1992, 2001, 2013, symbolic years in the life of Pope Francis. The wines will be offered as a gift by the Roman-Catholic Archdiocese of Bucharest and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Iasi.
Pope Francis' visit to Romania takes place at the invitation of President Klaus Iohannis.
The head of state addressed this invitation the first time in May 2015, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Romania and the Holy See, and renewed it by a letter sent to His Holiness in March 2017. The invitation of the President was completed by the one of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Romania, as well as by the personal message of Patriarch Daniel, the preparation and the unfolding of the apostolic visit under the best conditions being possible with the support of all relevant authorities, both public and religious.