“We are in the most beautiful cathedral possible”, these were the words that Szabolcs Sajgó, the Jesuit director of the House of Dialogue in Budapest, began his unprecedented Holy Mass with over River Danube on 28 July. The liturgy took place on Liberty Bridge, a scheduled monument of the city, interconnecting Buda and Pest, the two banks of the Hungarian capital. The site is closed off from traffic on four weekends each summer, thus becoming a temporary pedestrian zone.
For these days the bridge is transformed into one of the most popular “hang-out spots” of Budapest.
Everyone is encouraged to organise cultural, sport and other events here, and this was the first time that a Catholic Mass was part of the schedule. It was the two NGOs supervising the programs that invited Father Sajgó to give a spiritual touch to the series of events on this year’s closing day, and the Jesuit was more than willing to make the most of the call for evangelisation.
Besides him, three other priests concelebrated: Bálint Nagy, another Hungarian member of the Society of Jesus, Verbite friar Hernandez Elmer from the Philippines and the Salesian Michael Karikunel working in Ghana represented three continents.
This lent a multicultural aspect to the liturgy, whose venue and the name of the bridge was full of symbols anyway.
Unsurprisingly, the sermon included references to freedom as God’s divine plan for mankind and as the precondition for faith to get blossomed; the ever-flowing river and the bridge as eternal embodiments of constant change and steadiness, the latter one being a call to unite as against building walls.
Since this was a unique event of its kind, no one knew how many people would turn up at 9 am.
Eventually the attendees of the Mass almost filled the whole bridge, amounting their number to nearly two thousand.
The believers were seated on the “poppy field” – that is, a mighty flower-patterned outdoor carpet – laid on the pavement at the foot of the altar, or at the edge of the curb, others were standing among or even sitting on the suspension structure of the bridge.
The whole event was full of peace, love and happiness in a Christian way. What is more, thanks to the live television broadcasting and online streaming, as well as the wide subsequent media coverage, the message was conveyed to many others who were not present on the bridge. Though prior to the event there were some who disputed the point in celebrating a Mass on such a mundane venue as a bridge, it is hoped that everyone got the lesson of the Gospel right: no place is inappropriate to proclaim the world of God, let it be a church, a roof – or even a bridge over troubled waters.