Tag Archives: Muslim

Buda and Pest

April 1 I decided to explore the Buda side of the city so my morning began with a walk over the Chain Bridge which spans the Danube linking Buda and Pest.

The bridge opened in 1849 and at the time was one of the largest bridges in the world.

As I looked up to the left, the Buda castle drew my attention. This complex dates back to the 13th century and was home to the kings from 1247. On September 11, 1526 the Muslims invaded and occupied Hungary until 1686 when the Christians were able to liberate the city from Muslim occupation. The palace suffered much destruction during those years as the Hungarian people struggled to secure the freedom of their city.

Then I began my climb to Saint Matthias Church whose walls have witnessed the coronation of many kings.

Today it is an impressive Neo-Gothic structure of the late 19th century although the original church was from 1255 when it was built next to Trinity Square.
Trinity Square

The 19th-century restoration uncovered some of the original elements.

A few more capitals from the original church.

The signage in this chapel was entitled: The noonday bell. The fresco commemorates an event in 1456. Three years after the fall of Constantinople, the Hungarians had to stand alone in face of Islamic aggression. Pope Callixtus III ordered the bells to be rung every day at noon to invite everyone to pray through the intercession of the Virgin Mary for victory against aggression. And the Sultan’s army was defeated near Belgrade.

In 1541 the city of Buda fell victim to Islamic aggression and the city was occupied by them until 1686. The Muslims turned the church into a mosque. They whitewashed the church and devoided it of furnishings. Once again the Hungarians secured the freedom of their city in 1686. Then the Soviets used it as a canteen during the time of Soviet occupation. With all this in mind the church has become for me a sign of that exceptional Hungarian spirit to risk it all for freedom.

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I began my descent to walk back to the Pest side of the city and enjoyed such subtle touches as this mailbox.

And wonderful food stalls both colorful and delicious.

As I wandered around Pest I was drawn into this church.

The beautiful interior of this Franciscan church has a interesting history that witnesses to that exceptional spirit of the Hungarian people to continue to seek freedom even in the darkest of moments. From the signage I learned that the church was built in the Gothic style in 1250 then on September 23, 1526 the Muslims burnt the church, put the brothers to the sword and turned it into a mosque. On that day the first Hungarian poet, Father Andrad Vasurhelye was put to the sword. The brothers returned in 1686 but then were outlawed by the Communists for 40 years. Then on September 1, 1990 they returned again.

All of these churches and their history gives me pause to think how precious freedom is and how people will endure and perserve not only for decades but centuries to secure freedom. The words of Pope Saint John Paul to the Hungarians are taking on an even greater significance.

“Be mindful of the blessings that freedom, which you have definitively secured, means for your future. Cherish it and make good use of your liberty.”

The opera house from the 19th century is a thing of beauty.

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That evening while I was listening to the Passion of John by Bach at the Opera House, surrounded by such beauty as I pondered the mystery of the suffering of Our Lord, my thoughts were on what I had seen during the day which witnessed how much these people have suffered for freedom in recent memory.

Walking home I turned around and noticed the beauty of the opera house

And the beauty of the Basilica recently restored which witnesses to the spirit of the Hungarian people.

Jouney to Aksum

Aksum has a history that stretches back to pre-Christian times and was a high civilization as far back as 400 BC. The Greeks remarked about the power of Aksum and her large empire whose commerce dominated trade between Africa and Asia. And then the Ethiopians claim this was the home of the Queen of Sheba and is the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.

This morning I was awakened by the imam chanting from the mosque. Muslims are a minority in northern Ethiopia where over 90% are Christians. Listening to the imam as brief as the morning call to prayer is and then quickly followed by the chanting of Christian prayer that is quite lengthy I began to ponder the conversation yesterday, about Muslim-Christian relations in predominately Christian northern Ethiopia. They live in peace and mutual respect. What a model for the world to witness.

We began a climb up the mountain which offered a great view of Gonder.
This would be an almost 8 hour drive to Aksum first through more farmland. 85% of the population is rural. On the way we passed through a village inhabited by Ethiopian Jews called the Falashas whose presence in Ethiopia predates Christianity. Notice the Star of David. During the days of Communism after the fall of Haile Selassie many of them fled to Israel by way of Sudan. Some still remain north of Lake Tana.

Ethiopia-ToAksum-2Along the way we saw lots of new church construction there were also a few mosques. Although northern Ethiopia is over 95% Christian, Muslims are welcomed as a religious minority to practice their religion and build mosques. However my guide told me the Muslim leadership wants to build a mosque in Aksum which is a holy place to Ethiopians like Mecca is to Muslims. So they said if we can build a church in Mecca you can build a mosque in Aksum.




After we climbed the terrain leveled out for a while before we began the next ascent into the mountains and this would be when the asphalt leaves off.



Of course before the bumpy ride began we stopped for coffee at a coffee shop. The exterior is deceiving.

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Ethiopia-ToAksum-6     Ethiopia-ToAksum-7  The interior was very colorful.

When we arrived the barista was busy opening up. She was a little late because my guide said she was at Mass. There is green grass strewn around which is a sign of happiness.

Ethiopia-ToAksum-9She prepared a great cup of coffee.

Ethiopia-ToAksum-10 Soon the terrain changed and was becoming mountainous. We would soon be able to see the awesome Simien mountains.

Ethiopia-ToAksum-11 We are off asphalt and what a ride. Hairpin curves one right after another with no guard rail.

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However this bumpy ride afforded spectacular views.

Ethiopia-ToAksum-12   Ethiopia-ToAksum-16 And I have a great driver, Alex who knows how to navigate.

Ethiopia-ToAksum-17 Ethiopia-ToAksum-18 And on the way we were driving through construction sites.

Ethiopia-ToAksum-25 After lunch we stopped at a local establishment for local beer.

Ethiopia-ToAksum-21   Ethiopia-ToAksum-20There lots of smiles and laughter as I tried the local beer. And when Alex told them I was a priest that delighted them even more. And in a few minutes there priest walked in.


This is the woman who owns the establishment and she showed me they prepare ingera.


And her ingera is delicious



Ethiopia-ToAksum-26We continued on our way and Alex pointed out incense trees.

Ethiopia-ToAksum-27You simply pull off the secretion and


…you have incense.

A Reflection on Day 9: Crossing Paths

On day 9 I was praying that my path would cross with the Muslim pilgrim if only for a brief moment. Although my interiority felt as arid as the terrain, I persisted in prayer, hoping I would see this pilgrim again.  Last evening Tom and I went to the church for Mass. We arrived early so we could pray the Rosary. The church was empty. I walked around and as I was walking up the aisle the Muslim pilgrim was there praying. He acknowledged my presence with a smile and the aridity of the day dissipated with a profound joy inundating my soul. The Lord answered the desire of my heart and prayer in a place I would least expect. Whether our paths cross again is not important; however I pray that the spiritual longing in his heart for truth will come to fulfillment in Christ. There are so many who make the Camino and for a variety of motivations that are not explicitly spiritual; however I believe the Lord is at work in their soul in a special way on the Camino. Perhaps that is the real miracle of Santiago.