Pilgrimage shows conflict overcome


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UDINE, Italy, AUG. 31, 2009 ("> Our Lady of Graces in Udine has brought three peoples together, characterized by common historical roots and bitter conflict.

On Aug. 29, pilgrims from the Dioceses of Gorizia and Udine, Italy; Lubiana, Maribor and Koper, Slovenia, and Klagenfurt and Graz, Austria, went on pilgrimage together to Udine's shrine of the Virgin of Graces.

Bishops Alois Schwartz of Gurk-Klagenfurt, Alojzij Uran of Liubliana, and Metod Pirih of Koper were among the pilgrims.

This is the 27th year for the annual pilgrimage, which was begun by then Bishop Alfredo Battisti of Udine, as a sign of reconciliation between three peoples with common historical roots, who suffered bitter conflict during the last century.

So recalled Archbishop Pietro Brollo of Udine, during the homily of the Mass last Saturday, attended by pilgrims and their bishops, offering "an embrace of friendship and fraternity that overcomes all divisions and unifies diversities.

"Since early times the dioceses present were linked to the Archdiocese of Aquilea (no longer in existence), one of the oldest and most important of Christianity given that, according to tradition, its first bishop was St. Mark the Evangelist.

Aquilea was dissolved in 1751, when the two episcopal sees of Gorizia and Udine were erected. These border areas were the theater of war between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy during World War I, and between Italy and Yugoslavia during the rest of the 20th century.

The theme of this year's pilgrimage was "Mary, Cause of Our Joy." Archbishop Brollo said in his homily that the pilgrimage implied "an invitation to walk with Mary on the paths of life with joy in one's heart, at a time when it seems, in fact, that joy is the great absence in our world."