Chapel of Our Lady of Hungary dedicated

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WASHINGTON - Acknowledging Mary as the "mother of all nations, but especially of us," Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, joined Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl in dedicating the new Chapel of Our Lady of Hungary at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The cardinal also prayed in his homily at a Mass that preceded the dedication Aug. 29 that Mary, as the patroness of Hungary and joined by the Hungarian saints, would intercede on behalf of Hungarians living in America and around the world and also intercede on behalf of the United States and its people.

"Our languages, traditions and community lives may be very different, but our Catholic faith is the same all over the world," the Hungarian cardinal said. "The church wants to speak to everyone so as to find the best way to one's heart."

The 1,000 pilgrims attending the Mass and dedication included a delegation from Hungary and Hungarians from across the United States and Canada.

Cardinal Wuerl, who as archbishop of Washington serves as the chairman of the shrine's board of trustees, was the principal celebrant of the Mass. Concelebrants included Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde and Bishop Kurt R. Burnette of the Byzantine Eparchy of Passaic, N.J.

After Communion, Msgr. Walter Rossi, the basilica's rector, expressed gratitude for the assistance provided by the Hungarian government to ensure that the chapel was built. "This is the 81st chapel to be added to the shrine, and only the second to be financially supported by a country," he said.

The government of Austria provided funding for the shrine's Chapel of Our Lady of Mariazell, which was dedicated in 1992.

The Hungarian Catholic Bishops' Conference and Hungarian Americans also contributed funds for the chapel's construction.

The chapel has been nine years in the making. In 2006, the 50th anniversary the Hungarian revolution, Cardinal Erdo petitioned that a chapel be established to honor Our Lady of Hungary and St. Stephen, the first Christian king of Hungary. Work on the chapel was completed in the spring.

The dedication of the chapel, located in the basilica's crypt level, began with a procession starting in the Upper Church, where the Mass was celebrated. A first-class relic of St. Stephen, a gift of Cardinal Erdo and the Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest, was placed in a reliquary in the new chapel.

The chapel features a large mosaic of Our Lady of Hungary surrounded by Hungarian Sts. Emeric, Gerard, Ladislaus, Elizabeth, Gizela and Margaret. Made of Hungarian Tardos marble, the altar is modeled on the design of the altar at St. Stephen Basilica in Budapest. Marble reliefs depict the baptism of St. Stephen and his coronation as king of Hungary on Christmas Day, 1000, and St. Stephen giving his crown to St. Mary on the day of his death in 1038. St. Stephen unified Hungary into a single kingdom and established Christianity as its religion.

Hungarian marble and stone were used to construct the walls, floor and altar of the chapel.

Hungarian Scouts, including boys and girls and young adults, distributed programs and served as ushers for the ceremony. The Mass, with readings in English and Hungarian, opened with a prelude that included the "Ave Maria" by well-known Hungarian composer Franz Liszt, and music from other noted Hungarian composers, including Zoltan Kodaly, was sung throughout the liturgy.

After Communion, Reka Szemerkenyi, Hungary's ambassador to the United States, noted how Hungarian refugees fleeing Communist oppression in their country found hope in the United States and relied on their faith as they built new lives in their new home.

"Generations of Hungarians arrived in the United States with suitcases in their hands, and felt it was their first priority to build churches," she said.

The new chapel, she said, is a source of great joy for Hungarians. "A chapel is not about the past. It is about our present values, and hope for the future," the ambassador said.

Laszlo Kover, speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly, also spoke after Communion, noting that "faith and morality will always remain the foundation of the future of mankind."

"This chapel will without doubt be a spiritual home for Hungarians and Hungarian Americans," he said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015