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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Hungary has been holding a ‘Night of Churches’ as part of a Catholic-backed festival aimed at raising public awareness about faith and the arts.
Younger and elderly Hungarians assembled suddenly in the heart of Budapest’s Castle District near the Catholic Matthias Church on a hill overlooking the Danube river.
The many tourists watched with amazement as they sang “The Evening Prayer” a folk song that was adapted by Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály in his choral work.
“This is my first flash mob,” said a smiling black man. “Thank you,” shouted a female spectator.
It is part of an attempt to promote the annual Ars Sacra Festival, or Sacred Arts Festival, an initiative organizers say was inspired by late Pope John Paul II.
Launched some seven years ago, it encourages visitors to open up their hearts for faith and its creative expression in the arts.
Across the river on Sunday afternoon a joint celebration of religions was held in the Saint Stephen’s Basilica, followed by a public group dance at the square in front of what is Budapest’s largest church.
The other highlight included the ‘Night of Churches’ late Saturday with churches across this former Communist country opening their doors to spread what they view as the Light of Christ, with tours, public discussions, film screenings and children programs.
At the same time a candle-lighting event was held in all participating churches.
It comes at a time when many Hungarians are anxious about their future amid a major economic crisis, with hundreds of thousands of people leaving the country in search for a better life.
The festival also aims to reach out to the most vulnerable people.
Among the many artistic events these days will be a literary evening with music for homeless people near the National Museum.
Catholic aid workers have expressed concerns about the up to 35,000 people, including numerous women, children, older persons and persons with disabilities, who are thought to be homeless in Hungary.
The Saint Ephraim Male Choir’s performance in the Budapest’s Sacred Heart Church, and a concert by renowned Hungarian pianist Gergely Bogányi in the recently opened Budapest Music Center will end the festival on September 22.
Organizers say they want to in their words “unveil the beauty hidden within” and lift up souls regardless of nationality, a message they hope will resonate throughout Hungary and beyond.