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517 S Belle Vista Ave

Youngstown, OH 44509

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Struggles To Protect National Identity

After these peaceful centuries new dark clouds were gathering over the horizon of Transylvania.  On the threshold of the 20th century, the Sekler-Magyars found themselves under foreign rule again.  After the great conflagration of World War 1, Transylvania was torn from the mother country and was put once again under the control of a Balkan power.  The new conquerors, the Rumanians, were Christians, though of the Eastern-Orthodox church.  Since both Rumanians and Hungarians had suffered together under the oppressive Osman occupation for more than two centuries, and often had experienced together the protective power of the Blessed Virgin, the Sekler-Magyars of Transylvania hopefully believed that their new masters would not interfere with their traditional Marian celebrations and pilgrimages at their beloved, ancient Shrine of Csiksomlyo.

Unfortunately, they had to suffer bitter disappointment, for the new ”conquerors,” though Christians, at times had used oppressive methods hardly different from the Turkish-Tartar tyranny.  Extreme nationalism was stronger in them than Christian brotherhood.  Realizing that the Madonna of Csiksomlyo was to the Hungarian population of the occupied Transylvania more than a religious symbol, – that it was to them the invigorating source of their national identity to live as Magyars preserving their thousand year old culture and tradition, the Rumanian government tried to suppress the cult of the Madonna of Csiksomlyo by either forbidding the annual pilgrimages at Pentecost, or al least, by making the celebrations as difficult as possible.  In many instances the Seklers had been kept from visiting the Shrine of the Madonna by brutal police force.  Yet, however ruthless the intolerant official pressure was, it was not able to separate them from their ancient Madonna. The more they were forbidden to venerate her publicly, the more attached to her they were secretly.  It was during these woeful years of nationalistic oppression that the Shrine of Csiksomlyo became the national center and refuge of the subdued Hungarian minority of Transylvania.  The Blessed Patroness was now to help them to survive as a national entity, for their existence as a nation was in peril.

In 1940, northern and eastern Transylvania was given back to Hungary.  The brief Hungarian rule gave the land and its people a period of relief.  To add to the glory of their gracious Madonna the Seklers obtained for her Shrine the rank of a minor Basilica from the Holy See.  However, they could not enjoy their new basilica for long.  World War II broke out.  After the war a double yoke of oppression was laid on the neck of the people of Transylvania.  The Soviet Communists accompanied the returning former Rumanian masters.  Thus, the chains of the Seklers became doubly heavy.  Not only was their national independence lost again, but also their religious freedom.  The godless Communists were not satisfied with making the practice of the traditional Marian cult difficult, so they made it impossible.  The heroic Bishop of Transylvania, Aaron Marion, was arrested while conducting the last pilgrimage at the Shrine of the beloved Madonna.  After he was taken into prison the portals of the Shrine were sealed, the Madonna was isolated from her people.  Upon the martyred land and peoples of Transylvania fell the darkest night of the most horrible prison, the notorious Iron Curtain.

This is the condition in which the original Shrine of the Madonna of Csiksomlyo finds itself today.  An American traveling in Transylvania as a tourist sent us the following report:  “I have been in Csiksomlyo, too.  The old Shrine of the Madonna is covered with cobwebs and a thick layer of dust…” This is an eloquent symbol of what is going on there under the tyranny of the godless.  The diabolic intention of the Communist is to cover with the dust of oblivion everything that reminds the people of the values of their Christian past.  By burying the Madonna in dust they intend to blot out her memory from the hearts of her faithful people.  However, we know that the godless shall not succeed to separate the Seklers from their beloved Patroness.  No dust, no filth of godless propaganda, no brutal oppression shall ever efface her from their hearts.  She will live within their hearts until the day of victory that will bring freedom to them and to their Madonna.