On Friday the Vatican announced that Pope Francis will travel to Romania for a 3-day visit at the end of May. This will be the fifth trip outside of Italy far this year, so far.
According to Vatican statement, after receiving an invitation from Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and the leaders of the Catholic Church in Romania, the Pope will travel to the country May 31-June 2, visiting the cities of Bucharest, Iaşi and Blaj, and stopping at the Marian shrine of Șumuleu Ciuc.
The theme of the trip, “Let us walk together,” and the logo – depicting a pilgrimage of people walking side by side in front of an image of the Virgin Mary – were released with the announcement of the visit, the primary colors being blue, yellow and red.
Saint John Paul II visited the country in May 1999, was the first Pope to visit Romania a predominantly Eastern Orthodox nation. At the time, John Paul’s visit was seen as an historic step in pursuing a rapprochement between the Catholic and Orthodox worlds.
With several of the countries Pope Francis is visiting being either of Islamic or Orthodox majorities, the mood of his trips, and possibly of his overall tone this spring, will likely focus on both interfaith and ecumenical dialogue, both of which are causes he has been committed to since his election in 2013.
In Romania, the pope’s longstanding devotion to Mary will also be on display in his visit to the Șumuleu Ciuc shrine, which is overseen by Franciscans and houses the popular local devotion of Our Lady of Csíksomlyó, drawing thousands of pilgrims each year for veneration.
The Pontiff is known for having a profound devotion for Our Lady Mary that goes all the way back to his time in Buenos Aires. As archbishop, he was known to participate in massive annual Marian pilgrimages to the Argentine shrine of Our Lady of Lujan.
Even now before and after every international trip he takes, he visits the highly venerated icon, the Salus Populi Romani (protectress of the Roman people) to both entrust his travels to her, and to give thanks. While traveling abroad, he typically stops to pray at the most prominent Marian site in the country he is visiting.
In a brief explanation of the logo and theme of Francis’s trip to Romania, the Vatican said Romania is often called the “garden of the Mother of God,” a term widely known to locals and which was also used by John Paul II during his 1999 visit.
Pope Francis’s visit, the statement said, “takes up again this Marian accent, inviting (faithful) to unite all their forces under the protective mantel of the Madonna.”
“The Holy Father has always urged the unity of various forces, rejecting selfishness and giving a central weight to the common good,” the statement said, adding that Francis will go to Romania to extend an invitation to unity, and to confirm Christians in their faith.