Bratislava, September 15 (TASR) – Roman Catholics worldwide on Wednesday are celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the patron saint of Slovakia, with Pope Francis officiating at the Mass of the national pilgrimage at Sastin (Trnava region).
The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows comes one day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and exactly a week (the Octave Day) after the Nativity of Our Lady.
Held as a ‘commemoration’ by Catholics worldwide, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated as a solemnity (the equivalent of what would formerly be called a Double of the First Class), which is also a public holiday in the country.
Slovaks have been honouring Our Lady of Sorrows in a special manner at least since Ottoman incursions in the 15th century. The territory of Slovakia remained largely free of Ottoman rule, while the rest of the Kingdom of Hungary was occupied until the late 17th century.
Pilgrimages to Sastin began in the 16th century after Countess Angelica Bakic, wife of Count Emericus Czobor, ordered a wooden pieta to be made as a result of a promise to God for being heard in relation to the suffering caused by her husband. The pieta was hidden in a nearby castle during the Ottoman occupation. After the occupation ended, it returned to Sastin, an ancient arch-deaconal seat. People began to venerate it and it gained a reputation for healing.
Building work on a large church in the Baroque style began in Sastin in 1736. The town is connected to the neighbouring Straze, and the two have a combined population of less than 5,000.
The cult of Our Lady of Sorrows as the patron saint of Slovaks was approved by Pope Benedict XIII in 1727.
Pope Paul VI declared the national shrine in Sastin a basilica minor – the first church to be given this title in Slovakia.
Nevertheless, Pope Francis celebrated the Mass in Sastin on a field with a view of the basilica on the background, as the church wouldn’t have been able to contain the tens of thousands of people present on Wednesday.