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Pilgrimage attracts the masses

THOUSANDS of people gathered at the National Pilgrimage on the Feast of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, the patron saint of Slovakia, at the National Basilica of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows in the town of Šaštín-Stráže on September 15.

THOUSANDS of people gathered at the National Pilgrimage on the Feast of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, the patron saint of Slovakia, at the National Basilica of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows in the town of Šaštín-Stráže on September 15.

Bratislava Archbishop Stanislav Zvolenský welcomed the Apostolic Nuncio to Slovakia, Mario Giordana, to the ceremony, who extended greetings from Pope Francis and an apostolic blessing imparted by the Pope. Bishops from Slovakia and the Czech Republic, as well as Slovak President Andrej Kiska and a number of MPs, attended the Holy Mass, the TASR newswire reported.

“That great atmosphere could be felt in the air,” Kiska told private broadcaster TV JOJ.

Organisers reported that more than 50,000 pilgrims participated over the course of the year’s events, thousands of whom came by two specially chartered trains, more than 250 buses and a large number of cars during the September 15 celebration. Preparations for the national pilgrimage started in January 2014 with 200 volunteers, the SITA newswire reported.

“I thank everyone who came because it is enriching for us that such a truly strong assembly could be created,” Zvolenský said, as quoted by the TA3 TV news channel.

The pilgrimage included a Holy Mass celebrated by Cardinal Jozef Tomko, who stressed that Slovakia is remembering the 450th anniversary of paying homage to Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows by pilgrimages to Šaštín-Stráže.

“We’ve come to plead for spiritual restoration and the power to put up with the hardship of life with respect to personal and national sins,” said Tomko, as quoted by TASR. “Let’s not forget that the battle between good and evil continues in our hearts and outside of us.”

He stressed that hardly any nation has been through as much suffering – yet continues to exist unharmed – as the Slovak nation. This is thanks to the nation’s patron saint, said Tomko.

The Feast of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows is a reminder that the Virgin Mary was proclaimed patron saint of Slovakia by the Holy See in 1927. Slovaks’ 450-year-long tradition of worshipping the Virgin Mary in Šaštín-Stráže is connected with Angelika Bakičová, who built a chapel with a statue of the Virgin Mary there to express her thanks for hearing her prayers.

Worshipping the Virgin Mary is well-documented by the existence of many paintings and sculptures where Our Lady is featured either alone or in company. Also, numerous churches consecrated to Our Lady of Seven Sorrows can be found around the country.

The seven sorrows are: Simeon’s prophecy; the Holy Family’s escape to Egypt while being hunted by King Herod; 12-year-old Jesus getting lost in the temple; Mary’s meeting with her beleaguered son on the way to Calvary; the crucifixion of Jesus; the moment when Jesus was lanced under the rib cage; and the burial of Jesus, according to TASR.

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