VIDEO: Thousands of Believers Celebrate Velika Gospa in Sinj

By 16 August 2019

August 16, 2019 - The Assumption of Mary, or Velika Gospa for those of us in Croatia, is celebrated on August 15.

Thousands of believers formed what looked like a human anthill as they made their way to the city of Our Lady to celebrate the Assumption of Mary, or what Croatians know better as Velika Gospa, on August 15. Sinj boasts the largest Mary shrine in southern Croatia and has celebrated Our Lady of Sinj for more than three centuries, reports Slobodna Dalmacija.

The inhabitants of the Alka city and the region opened their hearts and welcomed pilgrims from all over the world, who also got to enjoy the Sinj City Park which was transformed into an open-air restaurant where thousands of suckling pigs and lambs were roasted. 

According to the long tradition, on Thursday, a central celebration was held in honor of Our Lady of Sinj with a traditional procession through the streets of the Alka city, in which the image of Our Lady was proudly carried, led by Marin Barišić, Archbishop of Split-Makarska and Metropolitan. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković even participated in the procession.

The celebration on Thursday morning is individually the largest gathering of worshipers of Our Lady of Sinj, and if viewed only by the number of those gathered, it is by far the largest shrine to Mary in Croatia. While it’s hard to have an exact estimate, it is safe to say that between 50 and 80 thousand believers participated in the celebration. 

Believers came from near and far - like Karlo Jurišić who joined from Argentina, where he was born 60 years ago. 

“So far, I have come to Croatia 5-6 times and every time I come to the church of Our Lady of Sinj because my barba is Fr. Gabriel Jurišić. In Argentina, we celebrate the Assumption of Mary, but not as spiritually as here,” said Karlo.

“I came from Australia. Since Croatia’s independence, I have come every year, and I do not miss the celebration of Our Lady of Sinj. I visit relatives in Vojnić, I met with my cousin Ivica Križanec in Sinj, now I will walk the procession, and soon go back to Australia,” said Jozo Bajić.

“Since 1976, I have made 37 pilgrimages to Our Lady of Sinj on foot. I had only missed it when I had pressing commitments,” said Split-Dalmatia County prefect Blaženko Boban.

Marija Budimir Bekan from Turjaka was among the oldest pilgrims to Our Lady of Sinj.

“I was born in the Mirčet family in Dicmo in 1931, and I married in Turjaka to my late husband, Ivo Budimir Bekan. I was first taken to Our Lady when I was five. Since then, every year, I come to greet Our Lady of Sinj on the Assumption. She's our sweet mother. If it hadn't been for her, if she hadn't defended and protected us, none of us would be here today,” said Marija.

The procession on Thursday formed at King Tomislav Square. After the church bells rang, the priests removed the image of Our Lady from her altar and carried it to the main church door where it was passed onto Alkars and Alkar boys. In front of Our Lady's image were members of the Croatian Army, police, firefighters, Sinj City Music, members of the KUDs in folk costumes, Homeland War associations, nuns, representatives of civil authorities, ministers and just before the image, the archbishop and priests. Behind Our Lady's image was a crowd of believers. When the procession arrived in front of the Municipal Court building, it paused briefly to bless all four sides, according to the established tradition.

The painting was propped on the temporary altar in Dr. Franjo Tudjman Square to begin the solemn mass, with the assistance of dozens of priests, led by Marin Barišić. The solemn Eucharist in honor of the heavenly mother of Sinj was celebrated by the parish choir of Our Lady of Sinj, led by Jura Zupić and sister Jelena Mijić.

Ante Čovo sent commendable greetings and thanks to those gathered. At the very end of the solemn mass, the blessing of Our Lady's image was shared. After the national anthem, Our Lady's image was returned to her altar.

According to the estimates of the priests, about 50,000 believers participated in the procession, and it was expected that up to 100,000 believers from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and all parts of the world were in Sinj on Thursday for the festivities. 

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