Levoca, July 2 (TASR) – Thousands of people gathered at the Basilica of the Visitation of Our Lady on Marian Hill above Levoca on Sunday to take part in the oldest pilgrimage in eastern Slovakia, with the main mass celebrated by chief papal penitentiary Cardinal Mauro Piacenza.
Spis Diocese Bishop Stefan Secka at the ceremony noted that apart from celebrating the 770th anniversary of the pilgrimage, the diocese was also commemorating the 70th anniversary of its consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by then bishop Jan Vojtassak, apart from the centenary of the Fatima apparitions.
“Such as we’ve ascended this hill, we haven’t only walked in Mary’s footprints and followed her pilgrimage full of faith and love, but being empowered by our Baptism, we’ve also been bearers of Christ, witnesses of the faith and servants of love. This beautiful centuries-old tradition must be preserved and strengthened as among the best from your country’s traditions. It has survived centuries and resisted all attacks, including violent persecution by the atheist regime in the last century,” said Piacenza in his sermon, which was read out in Slovak by local bishop Secka.
“I’ve witnessed life and faith here. I’ve seen the life of the Church here to such a degree that one has the spontaneous urge to sing ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord’, which is the Canticle of Our Lady,” the Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary told journalists after the mass, adding that he has a special respect for local churches in the former Eastern bloc.
A chapel has existed on Marian Hill since at least the 13th century, when the location was being used as a refuge by people from Levoca during the Tatar invasions. In the 15th century, the chapel was rebuilt as a Gothic church, before undergoing a Baroque reconstruction in the 18th century and another in the early 20th century. Pope John Paul II upgraded the church to a Basilica Minor in 1984 and he himself visited the site in 1995 with 650,000 people in attendance.