We summarize in a two-part article our path from the beginning to the end all along 2020. What a tremendous amount of experience, wonder, spiritual fulfilment and reinforcement have been brought by this extremely hard 365 days. A real challenge for both the human and faith! As staff members of the IEC Secretariat we got into the year of 2020 in the hope of a successful congress. We have already been working on for many years to show the roots of our country and the Hungarian Church. To let the entire world see our traditions, history, values and culture. To let them know that we, Hungarians are the heirs of St. Stephen in a country of more than thousand years old. The thought that this land serves as a world gathering point to meet with Jesus, has filled us with euphoria.
We jumped into the year with huge vitality, since after so long, the Congress finally arrived to a foreseeable distance. We have started introducing the IEC guest speakers on our website. I would like to mention here for example, the ever cheerful and vigorous Cardinal Dolan from the United States, then the Canadian Cardinal, Gérald Lacroix who, during his Colombian mission, was regularly riding 18 hours on a mule to reach his far away parishes, or the Archbishop of Palma, fighting for a more virtuous, proper life in the shadow of drug wars. Furthermore, let’s see here Patriarch Sako, Archbishop of Baghdad, who has done a lot to end the persecution of Christians in Iraq, or the Archbishop of Seoul, Soo-jung who has been working on to set up peace between the two Koreas.
In the meantime the Mission Cross has tirelessly kept on his journey that has already covered more than fifty thousand kilometres within and beyond our borders in two-years. It toured across the Carpathian-Basin, and wherever it had a stop, strengthened people’s faith and hope in a more close-knitted and lovable world.
The “God and Me” series that has been launched on YouTube at the Christmas of 2019, has kept on going with new parts. The 5 minutes long episodes show one by one 52 fates and their stories. 52 persons’ touching and straightforward talks about their faith. Testimonies that were heartbreakingly painful on the one hand, while joyful on the other. Doubts and recognitions, struggles and understandings alternate each other, perfectly illustrating the human soul’s eternal struggle and relief.
At the beginning of the year our Carpathian basin country tours have got a new dynamism. The IEC Secretariat could manage travels to Transylvania: one in January, a 10-days tour together with Csaba Böjte so as to invite the Transylvanian worshippers to the Budapest World Event. What a heart- warming experience it was, talking to the kids of the St. Francis Foundation Children’s home of Déva about faith, Jesus, the importance of the world meeting, and to experience the immaculate faith and living relation to Jesus of the Hungarians living in the diaspora. On the way home Brother Csaba’s words echoed in our souls: “The candle procession, heading towards Heroes’ Square should be seen even from the space. But to reach that phenomena, ten- or even twenty attendees are far from being enough, at least hundreds of thousands should participate.”
Our trip was so successful, that at the beginning of March we were again on the road, heading to Transylvania. There we got the news: in the wake of the pandemic, borders are to be closed, the entire country, even the world as well- is to be put into quarantine. Thus we interrupted our journey. We returned home on March 13th, and a new era has started in our lives as of 15 th March. The era of lockdowns. The era of silence and aloneness.
Week by week as from January onwards, various guests have been invited to the “Napindító” (Start of the Day) radio show, launched and broadcasted by Radio Mária. Testimonies, cathartic confessions, straightforward thoughts were voiced along these quiet, cold mornings. There were times when tears filled our eyes. But these talks have come to an end. The last broadcast was on the air right on 15 th of March. That day the presenter was sitting in the studio totally alone in front of the microphone, while somewhere from the air, over the phone two teenagers were revealing their astonishingly deep relationship with God. It was their voice that brought hope to many in this new, unknown and frightening situation.
Another of our series, the “Esztergom talks”, with the motto “The way they see…God, the world, the faith…” was launched right on the last day of February, but due to the lockdown no further shows could have taken place in person: still, even if “only” on radio and television broadcasts, the March 18 th show could have been followed, thanks to Radio Kossuth and Bonum TV.
The Mission Cross has been quarantined as well: his last stop was Prague, and there was no way to keep on the journey. The Cross, the time and mankind have all stopped. Once again we had to think over everything that had been taken granted so far and we were certain of. Amidst steady rain, on March 27, the Holy Father was praying alone in empty St. Peter’s Square. By delivering his “Urbi et orbi” blessings, Pope Francis worded the very same we had also heard from the witnesses of the “God and Me” series: “Do not be afraid, since no matter what difficult moments one is going through, God is always present in everyone’s life!”
Following the first shock, we had to pull ourselves together right away. There was no time to stop. While the squares, streets, churches became empty and abandoned, and life has likely stopped, we had to find new ways and channels in no minute time to go ahead with our tasks, to hold people’s soul alive, to give a meaning to that all this is good for something, and to ensure that the World Meeting, one way or another, but would definitely take place. So we turned our focus towards the online space that we have started to use in a very deliberate way.
The Church is quite often criticised for not keeping up with the time, for using old fashioned means of communication, and that he is unable to speak the new generation’s language. One of the greatest “gift” of the pandemic was that we were urged to address the faithful in the most creative way possible, by taking advantage of the latest technical devices in communication. Likely we have succeeded! The camera has become an absolutely indispensable “accessories” of a church, since it served the easiest way to reach the faithful, enabling them to join the Holy Mass even from their home. Though they were alone, still together.
In mid-March, the editorial office of Magyar Kurír and Új Ember made a call to pray every noon together for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. The IEC joined the newspapers’ initiative with three of its messengers, András Csókay, Csaba Böjte and Róbert Szikora.
This was the moment when it became absolutely clear, that everything can be locked into quarantine, except for our heart and soul. Cardinal Péter Erdő has definitely made good use of the opportunities offered by the virtual world, right from the very beginning. He spoke to the faithful in video messages both at Easter and Pentecost, and from then onwards he regularly appeared in the online space, shared his thoughts, prayed or told us interesting stories with lessons to be learned, enabling us to gain strength from.
However, there were some issues with no available online solution, like delivering the Easter edition of the Új Ember newspaper. Here arrived István Kuzmányi’s initiative, upon which the paper was delivered in person by the Chief Editor and the IEC Secretariat, in collaboration with a great number of volunteers on Easter Sunday. The Új Ember paper was distributed -amongst others- to doctors, lawyers, teachers, bricklayers, residents of homes for the elderly, hospitalized people, and even to a farmer, who happened to sit on his tractor when he got the paper. Being deeply touched, all he could say was: “God bless you”. No matter what the profession or age was, all were happy the same as the other.
One and a half weeks later, on April 23, the news which we had been preparing ourselves for days already arrived: the Eucharistic Congress has been postponed by a year, for the September of 2021. We did our best to remain strong, although it wasn’t easy at all. We felt the event so close, since the scheduled September 13 was just around the corner, and then, all of a sudden it moved again so far away! But there was no time to stop, to collapse: the work had to go on.
At the beginning of June we launched the Congress’ news channel, the NEK TV, to activate the countryside as well into the preparatory works of the Congress. Along the shootings of the short movies, we were in Transylvania, where students of a school were just planting olive trees to celebrate the end of the quarantine, we baked bread at Sátoraljaújhely, we tasted the IEC wine in Mád, attended the Pálos 70 pilgrimage, had talks about the medical mission in Africa, got more familiar with the history of the 1938 Eucharistic Congress, met several priests and friars, and unveiled a great number of “behind the scenes” in relation to the IEC organisation.
Here we arrived in September, to the time of the online pre-meeting, which the 2 nd part of our summarizing article would write about.
Tünde Zsuffa, Head of Media and Communications Director
Photo: Marcsi Ambrus