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The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Budapest
"In Budapest, these celebrations have both a Christian and secular character"
 real 28k

Sunday, 20 August, 2000, 23:38 GMT 00:38 UK
Hungary celebrates its own millennium
Procession of holy relics to parliament
Thousands watched as King Stephen's sacred remains were carried past
Hungarians have been celebrating the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of their state with an air show, street music, dancing and fireworks.

The events were capped by the Eastern Orthodox Church's canonisation of Hungary's founding monarch, King Stephen - more than 900 years after the Catholic Church honoured him with a sainthood.

The Orthodox Church's unprecedented canonisation of a Roman Catholic saint was announced by Constantinople Patriarch Bartolomaios I at a mass in the capital Budapest, attended by a crowd of more than 25,000.

Budapest's Parliament being showered in national colours
Budapest's Parliament building was showered in national colours
"One thousand years ago the church was not divided...Over the past few years, the demand has grown for the joint work of Christians," Pope John Paul II said in a message read out by Hungarian bishop Istvan Seregely.

From St Stephen's Basilica, worshippers escorted precious Roman Catholic relics - fragments of the skull and right hand of St Stephen - in a holy procession to parliament.

By the time King Stephen was canonised by the Catholic Church in 1081, the eastern and western halves of the church had split irrevocably.

Untouched

On Sunday morning an air show drew thousands of people to the banks of the Danube river. It included a descent by parachutists.

The BBC's correspondent in Budapest, Nick Thorpe, says no town or village was untouched by the celebrations.

The state authorities stressed the decentralised nature of the event, in an attempt to include as large a part of the population as possible.

Cultural events organised around the country included choir performances and historical pageants .

Every year Hungarians mark St Stephen's Day on 20 August, in honour of the king who ruled Hungary from 1000 to 1038. He is credited with having brought Christianity to the country's nomadic tribes.

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See also:

01 Jan 00 | Europe
Hungary hails national symbol
10 Sep 99 | Europe
Hungary's role remembered
14 Oct 99 | Europe
EU set to spread east
03 Nov 99 | Iron Curtain
Budapest's changing face?
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