John Paul II Encourages Slovaks to Keep Their Faith Intact

On the Feast of Their Patron Saints

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II encouraged Slovaks to contribute their human and spiritual values to the building of a united continent by keeping their country’s faith intact.

The Pope made that appeal Saturday during an audience he granted to 2,000 Slovak pilgrims, led by Cardinals Jan Chryzostom Korec and Jozef Tomko, accompanied by the republic’s president, Rudolf Schuster. The occasion was the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, patrons of Slovakia and co-patrons of Europe.

The Slovak pilgrims were returning the Holy Father’s visit to their country five months ago, on the 10th anniversary of the proclamation of the republic and the institution of the Slovak episcopal conference. John Paul II also traveled to Slovakia in 1990 and in 1995.

Shortly before the Pope’s last trip to Slovakia, Cardinal Korec, bishop of Nitra, said that, thanks to John Paul II’s encouragement, the faithful of Slovakia — who suffered one of the worst persecutions against the Church during the Communist era — began to renew themselves.

On May 1, Slovakia will enter the European Union together with Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta.

Commenting that Slovakia and Europe are being enriched by numerous cultures, the Holy Father told those present: “It would be deleterious to forget that Christianity has contributed in a decisive way to the formation of the continent.”

“I invite you to guard this faith integrally and to nourish it through prayer, appropriate catechesis, and continuous formation,” John Paul II said.

Far from being concealed, the faith must be “proclaimed and witnessed with courage and ecumenical and missionary tension,” following the example of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, who put into practice what Jesus taught his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. … You are the light of the world,” the Pope said.

“To be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ means that you must make the evangelical truth shine every day in personal and communal options” and “maintain unaltered the spiritual legacy of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, counteracting the widespread tendency to be uniform with homologous and standardized models,” the Holy Father explained.

“To the desired construction of European unity, you, dear Slovaks, must offer your significant contribution, becoming interpreters of the human and spiritual values that give meaning to your history,” the Pontiff exhorted.

“It is indispensable that these ideals, lived consistently by you, continue to guide a free and solidaristic Europe, capable of harmonizing its different cultural and religious traditions,” the Pope concluded.

According to the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, about three-quarters of Slovakia’s approximately 5 million inhabitants are Catholic.

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