Pope Recalls Visit to Slovakia

«To Confirm Her in Faithfulness»

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 17, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II’s address at today’s general audience, held in St. Peter’s Square, in which he recalled his Sept. 11-14 visit to Slovakia.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. I would like to recall with you today the apostolic trip which I had the joy of making last week to Slovakia. I thank the Lord, who enabled me to visit that noble country for the third time. I renew the expression of my sentiments of gratitude to all those who received me with so much cordiality. I thank especially the venerable brothers in the episcopate, the president of the republic, and the other authorities, as well as all those who took care of every aspect of my stay in that land.

2. Faithful to Christ and to the Church: This is how Slovakia appears in its history. By going there in person, I wished to confirm her in this faithfulness, while she looks with confidence toward the future. I was able to admire with satisfaction the economic and social development that has been effected in these years. I am certain that, by entering in the European Union, the Slovak people will be able to offer their valuable contribution, including on the level of values, to the construction of Europe. Indeed, thanks be to God, Slovakia possesses a rich spiritual patrimony which, despite the harsh persecution endured in the past, she has been able to conserve firmly. Eloquent testimony of this is the promising flowering of Christian life and of priestly and religious vocations, which is evident today. I pray that this beloved nation will continue with confidence on this path.

3. The first stage of my pilgrimage was the visit to the cathedral of Trnava, mother church of the Archdiocese of Bratislava-Trnava. From that temple, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, I appealed to Christians to be ever more intrepid witnesses of the Gospel.

The subsequent days had as their focus beautiful and evocative eucharistic celebrations, well prepared in the liturgy and songs, with an intense and devout participation on the part of the Christian people. The first took place in the Square of Banska Bystrica, in the heart of the country. Commenting on the Gospel of the Annunciation, I stressed the need to cultivate, starting with the family, a mature freedom. Only in this way is one ready to respond to the call of God, following the example of the Virgin Mary.

Still in Banska Bystrica, I met with members of the episcopal conference of Slovakia. I encouraged them to continue in the vast work of promotion of Christian life, after the years of isolation and the Communist dictatorship.

4. I then went to Roznava, capital of an agricultural region. In that context, the evangelical parable of the sower resounded with great eloquence. Yes! The Word of God is the seed of new life. Addressing the peasants in particular, I stressed how important their contribution is to the construction of the nation. It is necessary, however, that they remain solidly rooted in their centuries-old Christian tradition. Also in Roznava, I had the opportunity to greet many Hungarian-speaking people.

The last and principal stage of my apostolic trip, took place in the capital, Bratislava. During a solemn Holy Mass, I had the joy of beatifying two children of that land: Bishop Vasil Hopko and Sister Zdenka Cecilia Schelingova, victims of atrocious persecutions in the ’50s on the part of the Communist regime; both 20th-century witnesses of the faith, raised to the honor of the altar precisely on the day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

They remind us that the Slovak people, in the tragic moments of suffering, found strength and hope in the cross of Christ: «O Crux, ave spes unica!»

5. Our Lady of Sorrows, her principal patroness, has been the support of the Church in Slovakia. United to her, who remained next to her Son on Calvary, our Slovak brothers, even in this our time, intend to remain faithful to Christ and the Church. May the Sorrowful Virgin protect Slovakia, so that she will jealously guard the Gospel, the most precious good, to be proclaimed and witnessed with holiness of life.

May God bless you, dear Slovakia! Thank you for your love for the Church and for the Successor of Peter!

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father said in English:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I thank Almighty God for the grace of my recent visit to the noble land of Slovakia. My gratitude goes to all who made it possible. I cherish my meetings with the Pastors and the faithful at Bratislava, Trnava, Banska Bystrica and Roznava. The Church, purified through persecution and now in a process of renewal, received with joy the gift of two new blesseds: Bishop Vasil Hopko and Sister Zdenka Schelingova. May God bless Slovakia for its love of the Church and the Successor of Peter!

I offer greetings to the English-speaking visitors present today, especially those from England, Scotland, Ireland, India, Australia and the United States. Upon all of you I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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