.- The Vatican confirmed Friday that Pope Francis will travel to Romania to the cities of Bucharest, Iaşi, and Blaj, and to a Marian shrine in eastern Transylvania, at the end of May and beginning of June.
The trip is set for May 31 to June 2 and will include a stop at a Marian shrine located in the Șumuleu Ciuc neighborhood of the city of Miercurea Ciuc, which is in a Hungarian ethno-cultural region of Romania.
CNA reported in November that Pope Francis had told the Romanian bishops during their ad limina meeting Nov. 9 that he would be visiting their country this year, though the precise date was not confirmed at the time.
Francis’ visit to the country follows exactly 20 years after Pope St. John Paul II was the first pope to go to Romania in 1999.
The motto of the visit is “Let’s Walk Together.” The trip’s logo, in blue and gold, depicts a group of Romanian people walking beneath an image of Our Lady, which according to a statement from the Holy See Press Office, evokes the Virgin Mary’s care and protection of the Romanian people.
The press office also noted that Romania has often been called “the garden of the Mother of God,” which is a phrase also used by Pope St. John Paul II during his visit to the country.
“The visit of Pope Francis takes up this Marian accent, inviting everyone to join forces under the protective mantle of the Madonna,” the statement continued.
As of 2011, the Catholics in Romania numbered 870,774; making up 4.3 percent of the population. The Catholic Church is the second largest denomination after the Romanian Orthodox Church.
The Romanian bishops’ conference is composed of 17 bishops, including both bishops of Roman Catholic dioceses and Greek Catholic dioceses, that is, dioceses of the Byzantine rite.
The pope will be in Romania just one week before the Feast of Pentecost, which is for many Romanian and Hungarian people an important day of pilgrimage to the Șumuleu Ciuc neighborhood.
The pilgrimage is made in commemoration of the Catholic Szekely population’s resistance to pressure from the Hungarian King John II Sigismund Zapolya to convert to Protestantantism. The group refused to abandon the Catholic faith and emerged victorious in a battle which took place on the Saturday before Pentecost in 1567.