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Pope Lauds Romania's Multiculturalism In Transylvanian Mass

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Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Marian Shrine in Sumuleu Ciuc on June 1.

MIERCUREA CIUC, Romania -- Pope Francis used a visit to Romania's most famous shrine to urge Romanian and ethnic Hungarian faithful to work together for their future.

An estimated 150,000 people braved driving rain to attend the June 1 mass at the Sumuleu Ciuc shrine, one of the highlights of the pontiff’s three-day trip to the predominantly Orthodox Christian nation.

The showers let up as the Roman Catholic pontiff arrived at the shrine, located in the city of Miercurea Ciuc, about 300 kilometers north of the capital Bucharest.

Francis then made a quick drive through the poncho-clad crowds in his armored car, known colloquially as the "popemobile."

Pope Performs Giant Mass For Romania's Ethnic Hungarian Minority
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One of the goals of Francis' visit was to try and heal lingering resentments rooted in the centuries-old rift between the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Christian denominations.

In his homily, Francis praised Romania’s multicultural and multilingual society and urged its people to put aside past divisions for the sake of "journeying together."

"Complicated and sorrow-filled situations from the past must not be forgotten or denied, yet neither must they be an obstacle or an excuse standing in the way of our desire to live together as brothers and sisters," he said.

The pope delivered the homily in Italian, and it was translated into Romanian and Hungarian, reflecting the fact that Hungarian is commonly spoken in this part of Romania.

Romania is overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian; about 4 percent of the country's 20 million people identify as Roman Catholic.

Many of those participating in the mass were part of Romania's ethnic Hungarian population. Numbering about 1.2 million, ethnic Hungarians have been at the center of political feuds between Romania and Hungary for decades.

On June 2, Francis is due to fly to Blaj, also in Transylvania, for the beatification of seven Romanian Greek Catholic bishops who died in prison during communism.

Homage To Emigrants

Francis's visit comes 20 years after Pope John Paul II received a warm welcome for his perceived role in the fall of communism.

The pontiff is also due to meet members of the Roma community, who are often victims of discrimination in Romania and elsewhere.

On May 31, the first day of his first visit to the EU and NATO member, Francis praised the "sacrifices" of millions of Romanian emigrants who have left the country over the past two decades amid rampant unemployment, poverty, and ongoing corruption scandals.

"I pay homage to the sacrifices endured by so many sons and daughters of Romania who...have enriched those countries where they have emigrated, and by the fruit of their hard work have helped their families who have remained at home," he said in a speech at the presidential palace in Bucharest broadcast on national television.

Pope Starts Romania Visit
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Thousands lined the streets to wave to Francis in his pope mobile and filled two cathedrals.

Many television channels transmitted his visit live.

He also had a private meeting with Orthodox Patriarch Daniel despite their strained relations, and they prayed alongside each other -- one in Latin and the other in Romanian.

With reporting by AFP
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