A People Who Weave Together Their Future: Pope Francis journeys to Romania

Antonio Spadaro, SJ

 Antonio Spadaro, SJ / Free Articles / Published Date:21 June 2019/Last Updated Date:26 December 2019

Romania: land of ancient evangelization

Romania is a land of ancient evangelization. The Gospel arrived there with the conquest of Dacia by the emperor Trajan (105 A.D.)[1]. In the last century, the rise to power of the communists marked the beginning of a harsh persecution. In 1948, by order of Stalin, the Romanian Greek Catholic Church was declared outlawed. In 1949 it was the turn of the Latin Church. The fall of the communist regime in 1989 marked the beginning of the rebirth of the Catholic Church, which was accompanied by the restoration of diplomatic relations with the Holy See, made official on May 15, 1990. The newly found freedom allowed the Catholic Church to resume its pastoral, charitable and educational activities, as well as to reopen the seminaries.[2]

Catholics today account for just over 7 percent of the population, where the Orthodox remain a clear majority (87 percent). They are divided between Greek Catholics of the Byzantine rite – united with Rome since 1700 – with 737,900 Romanian-speaking faithful, and Latin-rite Catholics who speak Romanian, Hungarian, German, Polish and Slovak, to which should be added a small community of the Armenian rite. Over time, also due to the persecution of the communist regime, a strong Romanian Greek Catholic community of the diaspora has been created both in North America and in Western Europe.

La Civilta Cattolica

Relations with the Romanian Orthodox Church began to progress after the journey of Saint John Paul II to the country, May 7-9, 1999, and after the historic meeting with Patriarch Teoctist.  This was sealed by the signing of a Joint Declaration. February 2000 saw the patriarch’s own public request for forgiveness for the wrongs inflicted in the past on Romanian Greek Catholics.[3]

The ‘soul of the people’

At 8:15 a.m. on May 31, 2019, Pope Francis took off from Rome heading to Romania for his 30th apostolic journey. He landed at Bucharest airport at 11:10 a.m. local time.

The pope was welcomed by the President of Romania, Klaus Werner Iohannis, his wife and two children in traditional dress who offered him flowers. After greeting the bishops of the country,[4] he went to the Cotroceni Palace, seat of the Presidency of the Romanian Republic, and former royal residence in Bucharest. The palace, built by King Carol I inside the Cotroceni monastery, is in classic Venetian style.[5]

The pope was welcomed by the president and his wife. In the palace he met privately first the president and his family and then the prime minister, Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă. At the end of the meeting, the president and the pope went to the Unirii Hall, where the meeting with the authorities took place.

Here Francis delivered his first speech, greeting Romania, “ţară frumoasă (beautiful land), 20 years after the visit of St. John Paul II and when Romania, for the first time since its entrance into the European Union, holds the presidency of the Council of Europe.”

The pontiff contrasted the oppression and denial of freedoms that isolated the nation to the “pluralism of political and social forces,” which has seen religious freedom and “the country’s full participation on the greater international stage.” He mentioned the phenomenon of emigration that has depopulated the villages but also enriched the host countries with the heritage of values and the work of many Romanians.

He then expressed the wish that the Catholic Church give “her contribution to the construction of society and of civil and spiritual life” in Romania, putting herself “at the service of human dignity and the common good.” The pope was clear: it is about “developing not just material conditions but the very soul of your people. Because peoples have a soul; they have their own way of perceiving and experiencing reality. To keep going back to its very soul: this is what makes a people progress.”[6]

It must therefore be clear that the “Catholic Church is no stranger to this; she shares fully in the spirit of the nation, as is demonstrated by the participation of her faithful in the shaping of the country’s future and in the creation and development of the structures of integral education and forms of charitable assistance suited to a modern state. In this way, she desires to contribute to the building up of society and of civil and spiritual life.” Francis’ strong appeal to the “soul of the people” is an antidote to any form of sectarian populism that reduces this soul to a factitious and ideological element.

The pontiff then pointed out some aspects of this constructive attitude: “To move forward together, as a way of shaping the future, requires a noble willingness to sacrifice something of one’s own vision or best interest for the sake of a greater project, and thus to create a harmony that makes it possible to advance securely toward shared goals,” he said. And then it would be a tragic mistake to see “the weak, the poor and those most in need” as “obstacles that prevent the ‘machine’ from functioning.” On the contrary, only “to the extent that a society is concerned for its most disadvantaged members, can it be considered truly civil.”

Proclaiming the Gospel beyond our own confines

After lunch at the Nunciature, Francis went to the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate at around 3:30 p.m. The palace was built between 1906 and 1908 as the seat of the Chamber of Deputies of the Kingdom, and then became between 1948 and 1989 the seat of the Assembly of the Socialist Republic. In 1996, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Bucharest obtained first the right of use and then the ownership of the building.

The pope was welcomed by His Beatitude, Daniel, Patriarch of Romania, at the entrance to the patriarchal palace, where the members of the Permanent Synod and the Vatican ecclesiastical delegation were present. Then Patriarch Daniel accompanied the pope to the Dignitas room for the private meeting. Subsequently, there was a meeting with the Permanent Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church.[7]

The climate was very fraternal. The patriarch greeted the pope by welcoming him and reminding him that the name of the room, Conventus, means “meeting.” And he mentioned the meeting between Teoctist and Saint John Paul II. In the room there is also a plaque commemorating that meeting of May 8, 1999. The patriarch concluded by saying that “the preaching of the Gospel of Christ today means combining the liturgy with philanthropy, prayer with social action to help the poor, the sick and the marginalized.”

Francis gave a speech in which he defined himself as “a pilgrim, a pilgrim brother, desirous of seeing the Lord’s face in the faces of my brothers.” His words aimed at the valorization of a “common heritage,” and above all at the need to be “journeying together in the rediscovery and revival of the fraternity that even now unites us. And this is already in place.” Certainly, it is the strength that comes from listening to the Lord that encourages us on our journey, “especially in recent times, when the roads of the world have led to rapid social and cultural change.” The message is clear: it is the challenges of the world and the need to carry the Gospel that drive Christians to be united and to walk together, beyond what divides them.

The pontiff also brought attention to the polarizations and tensions that are experienced in our societies and in politics. Francis noted how “while a globalization that tends to level differences has contributed to uprooting traditional values and weakening ethics and social life, which more recently has witnessed a growing sense of fear that, often skillfully stoked, leads to attitudes of rejection and hate, we need to help one another not to yield to the seductions of a ‘culture of hate,’ a culture of individualism that, perhaps no longer ideological as in the time of the atheist persecution, is nonetheless more persuasive and no less materialist.” On the contrary, “we need to let our hearts be warmed by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

The pope then recalled “the many Romanian Orthodox communities that cooperate fruitfully with the many Catholic dioceses in Western Europe where they are present,” developing “a relationship of reciprocal trust and friendship, grounded in fraternity and nurtured by concrete gestures of acceptance, support and solidarity.”

Finally, Francis invoked the Spirit on the journey toward Pentecost: “May his fire consume our lack of confidence and his breath sweep away the hesitation that holds us back from bearing witness together to the new life he offers us. May he, the builder of fraternity, give us the grace to walk beside one another. May he, the creator of newness, make us courageous as we experience unprecedented ways of sharing and of mission. May he, the strength of the martyrs, keep us from making his gift of self fruitless.”

From the seat of the Patriarchate, the pope moved to the new Orthodox cathedral “Salvation of the People.” Inaugurated in November 2018 by Patriarch Daniel and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, it is under construction and is expected to be completed in 2024, after 14 years of work. Located in the center of Bucharest and able to accommodate 5,000 worshippers, the building is in the shape of a Greek cross and has impressive dimensions: 120 meters high, 126 long and 68 wide. Its 120-meter bell tower will make it the second tallest building in the country, after that of the parliament. During his apostolic visit to Romania in May 1999, St. John Paul II made a donation of $200,000; he is in fact mentioned in the list of donors to the cathedral.

Francis was greeted on the stairs of the cathedral by His Beatitude Daniel, and together they entered the central nave and went up to the threshold of the iconostasis, accompanied by songs in a setting of great solemnity. The patriarch greeted the pope in the basilica “dedicated to St Andrew the Apostle, the first called, brother of Peter the Apostle.” His greeting was followed by one from the Holy Father.

The prayer included the recitation of the Our Father in Latin, three Catholic Easter songs, the recitation of the Our Father in Romanian, three Orthodox Easter songs and the final song. Although the prayers were not recited together by the pope and the patriarch, in the Church both versions of the Our Father were recited aloud by the faithful present. And Francis himself said that he prayed the Our Father in Latin while Daniel did so in Romanian.

The pope invoked “the harmony that we have not been able to build on earth,” and said: “We wait in expectation for your kingdom to come. We ask for it and we long for it, because we see that the workings of this world do not favor it, organized as they are around money, personal interests and power.” Then he commented on the Lord’s prayer, expression by expression. In particular, he prayed: “Help us, Father, by sending to us, as at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, source of courage and joy, to impel us to preach the good news of the Gospel beyond the confines of the communities to which we belong, our languages, our cultures and our nations.”

Blessed are those who believe and have the courage to foster encounter and communion.’

Around 5:45 p.m. Francis went to the Catholic Cathedral of St. Joseph. It was built between 1875 and 1883, in the design of the Vienna School, and consecrated by the first Catholic archbishop of Bucharest, Ignatius Paoli, on February 15, 1884. The building is in Romanesque style, with some Gothic elements; it has a length of 40 meters and a width of 22 and can accommodate about 1,200 faithful. They venerate there the relics of Blessed Vladimir Ghika, priest and martyr, and some relics of St. John Paul II. Outside the cathedral and in the surrounding area there were about 25,000 people waiting for Francis.

The pope celebrated Mass in Latin on the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He gave a homily centered on three images: “Mary journeys, Mary encounters, Mary rejoices.”

Francis described Our Lady on difficult paths that “required courage and patience”: Our Lady “knows what it means to walk uphill, she knows what it means for us to walk uphill, and she is our sister at every step of the way. She knows what it is to be weary of walking and she can take us by the hand amid our difficulties, in the most perilous twists and turns in our life’s journey.”

Mary encounters Elizabeth. And the Mary who “meets” is also the image of our encounters, especially those between people who live deep differences. “In the Church, when different rites meet, when the most important thing is not one’s own affiliation, group or ethnicity, but the People who together praise God, then great things take place. Again, let us state it emphatically: Blessed are those who believe and who have the courage to foster encounter and communion.”

Finally, Mary rejoices. “Faith wavers when it just floats along in sadness and discouragement,” because everything is reduced to our sadness, and “we forget that we are not orphans, for we have a Father in our midst, a powerful savior.” Mary comes to our aid, “because instead of reducing things, she magnifies them in ‘magnifying’ the Lord, in praising his greatness” and “entrusts herself to the Lord in all things.”

Back in the Nunciature, the pope found 22 Jesuits who are working in Romania – 14 of them Romanians – to welcome him and stayed with them for an hour, answering some questions in a family atmosphere.[8]

In Transylvania. The artisan work of weaving together the future

On Saturday, June 1, at 9:20 a.m., the papal plane took off from Bucharest for Târgu Mureş. The original plan to fly to Bacau and then from there take a helicopter was changed due to weather conditions. From Târgu Mureş the pope drove to Sumuleu-Ciuc, a district of the small town of Miercurea-Ciuc, located in the region of Transylvania among the mountain ranges of the Eastern Carpathians, in the Ciuc depression on the banks of the River Olt. The majority of the population belongs to the Székely ethnic group and commonly speaks Hungarian.

The shrine, situated in an evocative natural setting, is a historical pilgrimage destination for Hungarian-speaking Catholics from Romania and other countries. A first church was built between 1442 and 1448 on the ruins of an earlier church building of 1352. The present building, in baroque style, was completed between 1802 and 1824. Inside there is a precious lime wood statue of the Virgin made between 1515 and 1520, which survived the fire of 1661. The traditional annual pilgrimage takes place at Pentecost.

On the hill in front of the altar there were about 100,000 people. They waited for the pope in the rain, coming even from Hungary. The ground was muddy, but that did not hold back the devotion of the people. Here the pope celebrated in Latin the votive Mass of Mary Mother of the Church.[9] Francis gave a homily that was brief but dense. It was translated first into Romanian and then into Hungarian. Francis recalled that at the Marian shrine we come to meet Mary and “acknowledge that we are all brothers and sisters.” We come to the sanctuary “as people returning home.”

In particular, the words of Francis reaffirmed the importance of brotherhood and the need not to “let ourselves be robbed of our fraternal love by those voices and hurts that provoke division and fragmentation.” The Church, he recalled, is a “field hospital” where these wounds are treated.

It is true that in those frontier lands there are tensions linked to language and culture. The pope said: “Complicated and sorrow-filled situations from the past must not be forgotten or denied.” However, “neither must they be an obstacle or an excuse standing in the way of our desire to live together as brothers and sisters.”

The annual pilgrimage to the shrine is an “opportunity for fellowship.” It “is part of the heritage of Transylvania, but at the same time it honors Romanian and Hungarian religious traditions. The faithful of other confessions take part in it, and it is thus a symbol of dialogue, unity and fraternity. It invites us to rediscover the witness of living faith and hope-filled life.” The appeal of Francis to the universality of the Church and to human brotherhood was therefore strong.

The pope then indicated the backdrop of the commitment of “journeying together” of which the pilgrimage is the image, the future. He said: “To go on pilgrimage is to commit ourselves to ensuring that the stragglers of yesterday can become the protagonists of tomorrow, and that today’s protagonists do not become tomorrow’s stragglers. And this, dear brothers and sisters, requires a certain skill, the art of weaving the threads of the future. That is why we are here today, to say together: Mother, teach us to baste the future!” It is important to note the precise use of the verbs “to weave” and “to baste,” which refer to sewing, to putting together the edges of two pieces of fabric with long stitches of cotton thread, perhaps destined to be replaced by the final sewing. Baste indicates slow, progressive, step-by-step work. At the end of the celebration, the pope donated a golden rose in homage to the Virgin Mary.

For lunch, Francis stopped at the Jakab Antal House in Sumuleu-Ciuc. The structure, inaugurated in 2016, is used to host conferences and events, and is named after Antal, archbishop of Alba Iulia from 1980 to 1990, who, during the communist regime, was detained in prison for 13 years, from 1951 to 1964, and forced to work in a lead mine.

In Moldova. A song more beautiful than that of the tempting sirens

At 4:10 p.m., the pope transferred by helicopter to Iaşi, which is the most important political, economic and cultural center of the province of Moldova. Located in the northeastern part of the country, for many centuries this city has been crossed by the most important trade routes connecting Poland, Hungary, Russia and Constantinople. It is the heartland of Moldovan culture.

To welcome the pope at the international airport were Bishop Petru Gherghel of Iaşi, the mayor, the president of the region and the prefect. The pope went to the Cathedral of Queen Virgin Mary, which is part of the Catholic Episcopal complex of Iaşi, together with the old cathedral (built between 1782 and 1789), the bishop’s palace and the cathedral square. Built in the immediate vicinity of the old one, the new cathedral has the architectural features of a crown. It was consecrated in 2005, after 12 years’ construction. In modern style, with precious mosaics depicting the evangelists and stained glass windows dedicated to the sacraments and mysteries of the rosary, the building has an external diameter of 38 meters and a height of 26 meters. Inside there is a large mosaic depicting the assumption into heaven of the Madonna.

Here the pope made a private visit. At the entrance to the cathedral he was welcomed by the auxiliary bishop, who brought him the crucifix. At the second door, the parish priest of the cathedral, together with a family, gave him the holy water blessed for aspersion. The pontiff crossed the central nave to the altar, where a young deacon and an elderly priest offered him a candle, which he placed in front of the relics of the blessed martyr Anton Durcovici. Here Francis stopped to pray in silence. After the prayer, he blessed those present, greeting and embracing many, especially the sick, after saying a few brief words of thanks.

Then, at about 5:30 p.m., he went to the square in front of the Palace of Culture. He wend round the crowds in the piazza here. Before getting in the popemobile he silently blessed a marble statue of The Redeemer and a stone marking the Way of St. James to Compostela in Spain.

The Palace of Culture was built in neo-Gothic style between 1906 and 1925. In the center of the façade there is a tower with a carillon clock and eight bells. The Marian encounter with youth and families took place in a packed square under an almost clear sky after the threat of rain.

The pope was welcomed by four children who wore traditional clothes and offered him flowers. Then he took the stage, accompanied by children, and went to the icon of the Virgin of Cacica. Greetings came from Bishop Gherghel and there followed songs, testimonies and prayers in Romanian, Polish, German and Hungarian. In particular, we remember the testimony of a grandmother present together with her husband and her 11 children – 4 of whom are consecrated – and her grandchildren.

The pope gave a speech in which he said: “we see more trenches than roads. The Lord is the one who gives us a song more powerful than all the siren songs that would paralyze us on our journey. And he always does it the same way, by singing a more beautiful and more attractive song.” In an anecdote, he asked, “Tell me, Father, when will the world end?” And he replied: “When there is no more Christian love and understanding between brothers and sisters, relatives, Christians and other peoples! When people lose all their love, then it will truly be the end of the world.”

Once again, the theme of unity was central. Francis said: “The Evil One divides, scatters, separates; he sows discord and distrust. He wants us to live ‘detached’ from others and from ourselves. The Spirit, on the contrary, reminds us that we are not anonymous, abstract, faceless beings, without history or identity. We are not meant to be empty or superficial. There is a very strong spiritual network that unites us; one that ‘connects’ and sustains us, and is stronger than any other type of connection. And this network is our roots, the realization that we belong to one another, that each of our lives is anchored in the lives of others.”

From a city like Iaşi, crossroads of cultures and encounters, a “city that knows how to open and start processes,” “new paths can open up to the future, toward Europe and many other parts of the world. Young people, you are pilgrims of the twenty-first century, capable of imagining afresh the bonds that unite us.” It is a strong image for the nation, for our coexistence and for our Europe in times of fundamentalism, populism and strong polarization.

At the end of the meeting Francis headed to the airport to return to Bucharest.

Blaj. The beatification of seven martyred bishops and the meeting with the Roma

On Sunday, June 2, after leaving the Nunciature, the pope went to Bucharest airport to fly to Sibiu, Transylvania. From here, by car, he reached Blaj, a town on the Transylvanian plateau, in a rich area famous for its vineyards. In the second half of the 18th century this city became the center of Romanian Catholics in Transylvania and also home to the “Transylvanian School,” an expression of Romanian Enlightenment. Here in 1795 the first Catholic translation of the Holy Scripture into Romanian was made, known as “The Bible of Blaj.”[10] Here is the residence of His Beatitude, Cardinal Lucian Mureşan, Major Archbishop of Făgăraş şi Alba Iulia and of the Greek-Catholic Church of Romania.

The pope went to the Field of Freedom, located in the eastern part of the city of Blaj, near the Greek Catholic Theological Seminary. It is the place where on May 15, 1848, more than 40,000 people gathered to assert their national conscience and demand the recognition of the Romanian people as a nation, with freedom and equal civil rights.

This place is the memorial of the testimony of the martyrs who died for the Catholic faith during the communist dictatorship. Here, in fact, during the celebrations of the first centenary of the Revolution, on May 15, 1948, the communist regime asked the Greek-Catholics to abandon the Catholic faith and to join the Orthodox Church. The then Greek Catholic Bishop Ioan Suciu, given the impossibility of responding freely, abandoned the gathering as a sign of protest. That gesture was a clear invitation which was accepted by the priests and the Greek Catholic faithful who embraced with faith the way of persecution.

Here the pope presided over the Divine Liturgy which involved the beatification of seven Greek Catholic martyred bishops: Iuliu Hossu, Vasile Aftenie, Ioan Bălan, Valeriu Traian Frențiu, Ioan Suciu, Tit Liviu Chinezu and Alexandru Rusu. Over 20,000 people were present. Francis gave a homily on the Gospel passage of the man born blind, which reminded him of the logic of the Lord, which is that of not putting labels, theories, abstractions and ideologies at the center, but to “look people in the eye, see their hurts and their history.” Francis thus hopes that fraternity and dialogue, which put the person at the center, will always prevail over divisions. In this context he recalled what Bishop Iuliu Hossu said during his imprisonment: “God sent us into this darkness of suffering in order to offer forgiveness and to pray for the conversion of all.”

At the end of Mass, Cardinal Mureșan offered the pope a silver casket containing some relics of the new blesseds and their icon. Francis then recited the “Regina Coeli” and gave the final blessing. He also expressed his gratitude to all those who welcomed him: to the president, to the authorities and “to His Beatitude, Patriarch Daniel, to the Holy Synod, to the clergy and faithful of the Orthodox Church of Romania.” And he said: “May the Lord bless this ancient and illustrious Church and sustain it in its mission.”

For lunch, the pope went to the Curial Palace, located in the central area of Blaj. Then, in the afternoon, he headed to the Barbu Lăutaru district, where, according to the last census of 2011, 9 percent of the inhabitants are Roma.[11] On October 1, 2017, the first stone of a church and a pastoral center was blessed. The new church was consecrated on May 19, 2019, and is dedicated to St. Andrew the Apostle and Blessed Ioan Suciu. The Greek Catholic Romanian Church of the city has for years worked for the pastoral care and social assistance of the Roma community. The martyr Bishop Ioan Suciu, a native of Blaj, also grew up among the Roma and supported their community and promoted evangelization initiatives with young people.

The pope met the Roma community inside the small church and outside. There were about 300 people in total. A Greek Catholic priest of Roma ethnicity gave his testimony, a song was performed by the children, and then came the greeting of the Holy Father before the prayer of the “Our Father” and the final blessing. Outside, a Roma children’s choir sang a song.

In his greeting Francis indicated the Church as a “place of encounter. We need to keep this in mind, not as a pretty slogan but rather as part of our identity card as Christians.” That is why he spoke of the weight he bears in his heart: “It is weighed down by the many experiences of discrimination, segregation and mistreatment experienced by your communities. History tells us that Christians too, including Catholics, are not strangers to such evil. I would like to ask your forgiveness for this. I ask forgiveness – in the name of the Church and of the Lord – and I ask forgiveness of you. For all those times in history when we have discriminated, mistreated or looked askance at you, with the look of Cain rather than that of Abel, and were unable to acknowledge you, to value you and to defend you in your uniqueness.” And he continued: “you have a great role to play. Do not be afraid to share and offer the distinctive gifts you possess and that have marked your history.”

From Blaj Francis returned by car to Sibiu, where the farewell ceremony was held. The plane with the pope on board, the members of the retinue and the accredited journalists landed in Rome’s Ciampino airport at 6:10 p.m.

* * *

The trip to Romania took place close to Pentecost, whose spirit shaped the meetings of Francis. The tension for unity and reconciliation between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches was palpable at all times, thanks to the overcoming of barriers and divisions, including cultural and linguistic ones, such as those experienced between the Hungarian- and Romanian-speaking communities. The meeting with the Roma, with the request for forgiveness, was also a key moment.

In his video message sent on the eve of his departure, Francis had recalled the suffering that the oppression of the communist regime had caused  the population. The pain experienced together, even with martyrdom for faith, is “a legacy too precious to be forgotten. And it is a common heritage, which calls us not to distance ourselves from our brothers and sisters who share it.” For the pontiff, therefore, Romania is called to “weave together the future,” to “baste” it in an artisanal way.

The guiding image of this task is that of “journeying together” as a people. This is the other great theme of Francis’ apostolic journey to Romania: to develop the “soul of the people,” which is a way of understanding and living reality and participating in the formation of the destiny of the country. He said in an interview: “To be part of the people is to be part of a common identity made up of social and cultural ties. And this is not an automatic thing; on the contrary, it is a slow, difficult process… toward a common project.”[12]

This is the seed left by Francis in Romania, in the hope that it will bear fruit for the growth of a young nation, of ancient evangelization, called to assume its responsibilities in the context of the global stage and, in particular, of the European one.

During the press conference on the return flight, Francis broadened the horizon: “If Europe does not look properly at the challenges ahead, then Europe will wither. We are seeing borders in Europe: this is not good […]. It is true that every country has its own culture and must preserve it […]. But please, Europe must not be won by pessimism and ideologies […]: ideologies that are not European, that come from outside or are born in small European groups. Think of the divided and belligerent Europe of 1914 and 1932-3 […]. Let us learn from history.”

[1] Close to the Byzantine Empire, the churches in this area entered the orbit of Orthodoxy after the Great Schism of 1054. This continued until the reunification with Rome of part of the Orthodox clergy, ratified on May 7, 1700, by the Synod of Alba Iulia. In 1920, after the Trianon Peace Treaty, the Romanian government and the Holy See established diplomatic relations, which were followed by the signing of a Concordat on May 10, 1927.

[2] We have already addressed in our magazine the analysis of the current situation in Romania: see G. Sale, “La Romania nell’Unione Europea,” in Civ. Catt. 2019 II 357-370.

[3] Cf. G. Marchesi, “Il fraterno incontro ecumenico tra il Papa e il Patriarca ortodosso romeno,” 2002 IV 274-283.

[4] The Episcopal Conference of Romania (Conferinţa Episcopilor din România, Cer) was reborn on March 16, 1991. The Cer brings together the bishops of the six dioceses of Latin rite, the six Greek Catholic eparchies and the Ordinariate for Catholics of Armenian rite resident in Romania with headquarters in Gherla. The presidency and vice-presidency are held alternatelyby the bishops of the two rites.

[5] In 1984, during the communist regime, on the orders of Nicolae Ceauşescu, the church of the monastery was demolished. The palace became the seat of the Presidency of the Republic in 1989. Subsequently, the monastery church was rebuilt, and since 2009 it has been reinstated as a museum.

[6] The italics in the quotations of Francis’ speeches are always ours.

[7] The Permanent Synod is one of the highest decision-making bodies of the Romanian Orthodox Church. It includes the Patriarch, who has the presidency, the other nine metropolitans (five internal and four from abroad), an archbishop and two bishops.

[8] The conversation is available here: laciviltacattolica.com/stir-up-indifferent-conversation-with-jesuits-in-romania/

[9] The logo represents Our Lady and the People of God walking under her protection. Romania is often called the “Garden of the Mother of God,” a formula dear to all the faithful. The visit of Pope Francis takes up this Marian emphasis, inviting us to unite all our forces under the protective cloak of Our Lady, as the motto “Let’s walk together!” indicates. The colors used in the logo recall those of the national flag: blue, yellow and red.

[10] The basis for the use of the Latin alphabet in all Romanian publications was also founded here. For this reason the Romanian poet Eminescu called it “Little Rome.” In addition, important theological, historical and linguistic works have been printed in Blaj, which have shaped the national conscience of the Romanians of Transylvania and have strongly influenced the political and cultural life of the other historical provinces.

[11] Cf. L. Lechintan, “I rom della Romania tra esclusione e integrazione,” in Civ. Catt. 2019 II 470-478.

[12] Cf. A. Spadaro, “Le orme di un pastore. Una conversazione con Papa Francesco,” in Papa Francesco, Nei tuoi occhi è la mia parola. Omelie e discorsi di Buenos Aires 1999-2013, Milan, Rizzoli, 2016, XV-XVI.