Pope Francis presented on Saturday the Sanctuary of the Virgin Mary in Sumuleu Ciuc with a Golden Rose, a gift the Popes have been offering since long to the world's major sanctuaries.
The Pontiff placed the rose at the feet of the wonder-working statue of the Virgin Mary.
Until 1922, such a rose could also be offered to a person whom the Holy Father particularly respected, but after this year it has been conferred only to pilgrimage sites devoted to the Virgin Mary, father Stelian Veres, a member of the organisation committee of the Pope's visit, told AGERPRES.
Sumuleu Ciuc is home to a more than 500-year-old miracle-working statue of the Virgin Mary, carved in lime wood, which represents Virgin Mary shrouded in sunrays, with the moon and the earthly globe under her feet, and a circle halo of 12 stars around her head. Also known as the "Woman Clothed with the Sun" or "The Weeping Madonna", the 2.27 m tall statue shows Virgin Mary holding the kingly scepter in her right hand and Infant Jesus on her left arm, both wearing crowns.
As an exception for the occasion of Pope Francis' visit, the statue was moved for the first time after World War II from the Franciscan church where it usually stands to the altar where the Pontiff celebrated Mass. Usually, a replica of the statue is exposed for veneration during the annual Catholic pilgrimage of Pentecost in Sumuleu Ciuc.
According to the official site of the Pope's visit, "in 1798, Alba Iulia Bishop Batthyány Ignác declared the statue wonder-working and conferred it the title of Mother of Help."
Over the years, the statue has been credited with hundreds of miraculous healings and fulfilled desires, as prove the metal objects placed on the walls of the church as donations by those whose prayers have been heard.