Pope Hoping for "Renewed Springtime" in Slovakia

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 10, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II will head to Slovakia on Thursday to promote a «renewed springtime of faith and civil progress.»

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The Pope himself explained the reasons for his 102nd international trip, when he bid farewell to the 11,000 pilgrims at today’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

«I am preparing to realize tomorrow, with great hope, my third apostolic trip to Slovakia, a land enriched by the witness of heroic disciples of Christ, who have left eloquent traces of holiness in the history of the nation,» he said.

The Holy Father requested prayers so that this apostolic pilgrimage «will bring the Slovakian people a renewed springtime of faith and civil progress.»

The Pope will visit the Slovak dioceses — Trnava, Banska Bystrica and Roznava — that he was unable to visit during his previous trips. About three-quarters of the country’s 5.4 million inhabitants are Catholic.

The visit will culminate Sunday with the beatification of Greek-Catholic Bishop Vasi Hopko and Sister Zdenka Cecilia Schelingova, both martyrs of Communism.

Slovakia is expected to enter the European Union in less than seven months.

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