Pope Francis’ official visit to Romania at the beginning of June included meetings with the country’s church and civil leadership, the beatification of seven Greek Catholic bishops, and a heartfelt meeting with the Roma community in the impoverished neighbourhood of Blaj where the Holy Father apologised to the Roma people for their marginalisation and maltreatment over the centuries.
The Order of Malta has a strong presence in Romania including many projects with the Roma people. The Romanian Relief Service provides kindergartens for disabled children, social care and meals for the elderly, and integration and education support for Roma communities across the country.
On the second day of his visit, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the pilgrim site of Şumuleu Ciuc. With support from the Fund, the Romanian Relief Service brought 300 children from disadvantaged backgrounds, representing the different programmes, to this special Mass.
Equipped with packed lunches and special team shirts, the children’s enthusiasm was not dampened by the rain on the day. As well as taking part in the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis, the children were very excited to see the Holy Father at close quarters as he passed near to the group.
One young girl wrote: “We are very lucky to have visited Sumuleu Ciuc, and seen the Pope. He came very close to us at the end so we could see him close-up. We had a great time, despite the rain!”
The Papal visit was a perfect opportunity to give these marginalised children a day out, a break from their daily lives that made them feel special, and an unforgettable experience to treasure.