Tens of thousands gathered Saturday for a mass by Pope Francis on his second day in Romania with the ceremony in a predominantly ethnic-Hungarian part of the Transylvania region set to be the highlight of his trip.
The mass has been keenly awaited for reasons of both faith and national identity in majority Orthodox Romania where believers suffered under the post-war decades of Communist rule.
For Catholics in the “Szeklerland” area, where some 600,000 ethnic-Hungarians comprise a majority of the population, the pope’s visit a first for that region — is seen as welcome recognition of their identity.
In pouring rain, a sea of colourful umbrellas and rain coats formed around the hillside Sumuleu Ciuc shrine early Saturday.
In all, an estimated 200,000 people were expected to attend the ceremony, which will see the Argentinian pontiff present a golden rose at the large wooden replica of the Madonna — a tradition for popes visiting major Marian shrines.
Most pilgrims will be Romania-based ethnic-Hungarians, but organisers expect some 25,000 will also travel from Hungary itself, as well as from Slovakia, Serbia and Ukraine, all countries with sizeable Hungarian communities.
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