Saturday, March 06, 2021

A TLM Pilgrimage in Slovenia

Our thanks to Mr Matevž Hribernik for sharing with us this account of a pilgrimage held last summer in his native Slovenia, and the accompanying pictures.

Last August, a small Slovenian community of followers of the traditional Latin Mass celebrated a Requiem for the victims of communist persecution who were killed on the grounds of a concentration camp in Teharje, and in underground caves in the vicinity.
The camp was first built by the Nazis for the Hitlerjugend in 1943, but after their defeat, repurposed by Yugoslav communists in 1945 for the interment of anti-communist soldiers, but also civilians, factory owners and landowners, and many women and children. In total, more than 5000 people were killed near the camp at Teharje without trial in the two months after the war ended, even though they were not executed in the camp itself. The majority of the victims were Catholic men who fought against the Marxist regime and atheistic-socialist society it advocated, and for the greater glory of God and protection of the nation and their families. The Yugoslavian communists later turned the grounds into a landfill, and built a golf course on the site.

After the secession of Slovenia from Yugoslavia, plans to construct a national memorial park on the site were begun in 1993, and completed in 2004. A colossal monument is a central point of the park, with an altar directly above the symbolic sarcophagus, and a baldachin in the form of a wreath. There is a Way of the Cross on site which leads from the entrance to the nearby church of St Anne. Since its construction, Mass has been celebrated in front of a tomb on a makeshift altar twice a year.
Our traditional community decided to make a pilgrimage to the “site of the martyrdom”, as is often called, on a cloudy and rainy August afternoon last year. Since the monument incorporates a great altar, we celebrated a Missa Cantata in the traditional rite, the same Mass those martyred knew. As far as we know, this is the first time TLM was celebrated here. This made our pilgrimage an historic and emotional occasion, since every Slovenian has a connection to this historic site from both sides of the fighting. After a homily, the Requiem mass was celebrated, followed by a procession of all the faithful to the tomb with the catafalque, where the Absolution was done.
It was an honour to celebrate and serve a Requiem Mass for the repose of the souls of all the victims. To illustrate the connection Slovenian Catholics have to this special place: the celebrating priest’s grandfather was held a prisoner in the camp, but was spared due to his young age of 17. My own grandfather, as a 15-year-old boy, was a partisan army guard in the camp; incidentally, he was assigned guard duty of his own father, my great-grandfather. Even though communist leaders of former Yugoslavia tried to cover those crimes and post-war atrocities, the memory and stories of those suffering persisted, and the truth always prevails.
We are contemplating making this pilgrimage an annual occasion for the Slovenian traditional community. In our country, World War II and the atrocities committed after it are still a subject of heated debate. A nation, neighbours, families, brothers divided by ideology are slowly recovering and coming together. We consider this pilgrimage our small contribution towards national reconciliation.
Tradition will always be for the young!

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