VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 22, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI’s trip to the Czech Republic this weekend will “encourage the Church to offer a contribution of vitality, hope and charity to the secularized society in which it finds itself,” according to a Vatican spokesman.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi affirmed this today during a meeting with journalists to give details on the Pope’s Saturday through Monday trip, which has the theme “The Love of Christ Is Our Strength.” This is the 13th time the Holy Father will make an apostolic journey outside of Italy.
According to Father Lombardi, this trip, during which the Pontiff will celebrate the nation’s patron, St. Wenceslaus, is framed in the historical context of the 20th anniversary of the fall of Communism. It will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the canonization of St. Agnes of Prague.
The spokesman recalled that when John Paul II traveled to this country in 1990, he was visiting a nation of the former Communist bloc for the first time after the fall of the Iron Curtain. The Polish Pope went on to visit the Czech Republic twice more, in 1995 and 1997.
Benedict XVI’s first stop in the nation will be to pay a visit to the image of the Infant Jesus of Prague. Over the course of the three-day trip, he will also meet with priests and religious, academics, youth and officials from the government. There will also be an ecumenical gathering.
The Church in numbers
The Czech Republic has 10,380 million inhabitants, 3,290 million of whom are Catholics, that is, 31.7% of the population.
The faithful are served by 20 bishops, 1,956 priests, 1,725 women religious, 160 members of lay institutes and 1,109 catechists. Minor seminarians number seven and major seminarians 184.
A total of 15,977 students attend 79 Catholic education centers, from kindergarten to university.
Other institutions belonging to the Church, or run by priests or religious in the Czech Republic include 50 hospitals, 98 clinics, 134 homes for the elderly or disabled, 59 orphanages and nurseries, 58 family counseling centers and other pro-life centers, 170 centers for education and social rehabilitation, and 28 institutions of other kinds.