VATICAN CITY, NOV. 10, 2010 (Zenit.org).- To commemorate the one year anniversary since Benedict XVI visited their country, nearly 1,300 Czech Catholics are making a three-day pilgrimage to the Vatican where the Pope greeted them.
The pilgrims, as well as Czech seminarians, attended Mass on Tuesday at the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Today, they met with the Holy Father during his general audience. The aim of the pilgrimage is to give thanks for the Pontiff’s visit last year.
As he addressed the pilgrims in their native tongue, the Pope recalled his Sept. 2009 visit to the Czech Republic fondly and spoke of the great respect and courtesy he received from the Czech faithful.
“I was also struck by the attentive consideration given to me by all those who, though being far from the Church, are however searching for genuine human and spiritual values, of which the Catholic community itself wishes to be joyful witness,” he said.
Benedict XVI went on to say that he prays that “the Lord will make fruitful the graces of that trip.” He also encouraged the Czech people to “continue, with renewed impetus, to render everywhere a courageous evangelical testimony.”
The Holy Father concluded his address to the Czech pilgrims with a blessing. “I impart to all of you from my heart a special apostolic blessing, extended to your families and to your entire homeland.”
On Tuesday, Radio Prague interviewed Hana Francakova of the Pilgrimage Center of the Bishopric of Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic. She was asked about the Pope’s comments, when he recently referred to the “tragic spread of atheism” in her country.
“We are an atheistic country,” Francakova answered,” but we should renew — rebuild — the traditional faith, the traditional way of thinking and our traditional way of Christianity in the Czech Republic.”
She added that this pilgrimage is especially important because it confirms that the faithful of that country “are the pride of the Church, that we love [the Pope], that we love the Church and want to serve the Church.”
When asked by the interviewer why the pilgrimage was made at this particular time, Francakova responded that the pilgrimage center was given permission to organize the trip at this time.
“I think it is God’s providence that we are here for these days,” she said in reference to the anniversary of the Pope’s visit to their homeland.
As to the collective response of her country regarding the Pontiff’s visit, Francakova said that many people, Christians as well as non-believers, were touched by his visit. She stated: “I spoke to several people […] and they all said it was such a beautiful occasion when the Holy Father was here. So I think […] many people may have changed the way they see the Church.”