BUDAPEST, Hungary -- Hungarians marked a millennium of statehood and Christianity yesterday with fireworks, parades and the canonization of their beloved King Stephen, whose rule began 1,000 years ago.
For the first time ever, the Eastern Orthodox Church canonized a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.
Yesterday's festivities began with an air show over the Danube with parachuters dropping into the cool waters, much to the envy of thousands of onlookers jamming the bridges and embankment in the heat.
Military parades, air acrobatics and costume balls were held across the country. The capital was planning for an enormous street dance and gala fireworks display, accompanied by music composed especially for the event by Robert Erdesz.
Each year Hungarians mark St. Stephen's Day, to honor King Stephen, who ruled Hungary from 1000 to 1038. The king is credited with bringing Christianity to the country's barbaric tribes and was elevated to sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church in 1686.
But the Eastern Orthodox Church, which split from Rome in 1054, did not recognize King Stephen as a saint, as it did not recognize anyone canonized by Rome.
A crowd of more than 25,000 people gathered outside Budapest's Basilica, where a Mass was celebrated by an emissary of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.
"St. Stephen left not only the crown he had received from Pope Sylvester II to his people, but also his spiritual legacy," the pope said in a message to the Hungarian people, delivered by Sodano.
During the Mass, Patriarch Bartholomeos I of Constantinople, head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, read a statement recognizing King Stephen as a saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church. …