STA, 15 August 2019 - Thousands of Catholic pilgrims have gathered at religious shrines devoted to the Virgin Mary across Slovenia to celebrate her assumption into heaven (on 14 August). The largest crowd converged on Brezje for mass celebrated by Archbishop of Ljubljana Stanislav Zore, who spoke about the meaning of hope in his sermon.
"Man needs hope more than the famished need bread, more than the thirsty need water ... Once we've given up hope, the selfish me goes wild, seeing only oneself and ones needs," the archbishop told more than 5,500 believers congregated outside the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians.
The church in the subalpine village of Brezje (NW) is Slovenia's most popular pilgrimage site. It was reportedly the scene of a miraculous healing 156 years ago and several more after that.
In his sermon, the archbishop thanked all of those who aspire to make Slovenia as society open to life and those who make the effort so that all children should have equal opportunities to develop their potential, especially in education.
"I'd like to thank you for demanding justice for all; to everyone putting in their effort to have the Constitutional Court decision on funding of private schools implemented," he said.
The court mandated in 2014 that private primary schools teaching nationally-approved curricula should be granted full rather than 85% government funding just like public schools. However, the parliament has still not implemented the ruling.
The pilgrims have come to Brezje from all over the country as well as from abroad and many more are still expected there later in the day. According to the head of the Brezje pilgrimage office, Andreja Eržen Firšt, the shrine attracts more than 10,000 people every year and their numbers keep increasing.
The number of pilgrims at Brezje has been building up in the days ahead of Assumption Day, many of whom have come on foot. Every year Roma families from around Slovenia come to Brezje at this time of year with their pastoral leader to spend some time in retreat there. This year more 350 have come.
Many Slovenian churches and other shrines are dedicated to Mary and holidays celebrating the virgin are popular among believers. As a result, Slovenian bishops entrusted the Slovenian nation into her hands in 1992. Since that year, Assumption Day has been observed as public holiday in Slovenia.