A boy waits during a heavy rainfall before Pope Francis' Mass at the Marian shrine, in Sumuleu Ciuc, Romania, Saturday, June 1, 2019. Francis began a three-day pilgrimage to Romania on Friday that in many ways is completing the 1999 trip by St. John Paul II that marked the first-ever papal visit to a majority Orthodox country. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Pope to beatify 7 Romanian martyrs in deeply symbolic Mass

June 02, 2019 - 12:00 am

BLAJ, Romania (AP) — Pope Francis is paying homage to Catholics who were persecuted, tortured and killed during Romania's communist regime as he beatifies seven bishop martyrs on his third and final day in the country.

Francis is to preside over the beatification ceremony Sunday in Blaj, a stronghold of the Greek-Catholic church that was outlawed during communism. The seven bishops had been arrested and imprisoned between 1950 and 1970 for adhering to their faith.

Francis is expected to hold them up as models for the Romanian faithful today.

The Mass is being celebrated on the symbolic "Field of Liberty," a huge expanse east of Blaj that was the site of an important nationalist rally in 1848. A century later, communist leaders marking the anniversary at the field demanded that Greek-Catholics join the Orthodox church.