Pope Francis received in audience today the Bishops of the Slovakian Episcopal Conference, on the occasion of their five-yearly ad limina visit.
Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to the Prelates in the course of the meeting.
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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate!
I meet you with joy, Pastors of the Church in Slovakia, during this visit ad Limina, in which you go to the tombs of the Apostles, renewing faith in Christ Jesus and the bonds of communion with the Successor of Peter, deepening among other things, the sense of collegiality and of mutual collaboration among you. I wish to encourage you in the pastoral work you carry out, even though characterized, among the difficulties of the present moment, by rapid transformations in so many realms of human life and by the great challenge of globalization. Verified in it at times are threats for the less numerous nations, but also at the same time elements that can offer new opportunities. An opportunity, which has become a sign of the times, is the phenomenon of migrations, which requires being understood and addressed with sensibility and a sense of justice. The Church is called to proclaim and witness the reception of migrants in a spirit of charity and respect of the dignity of the human person, in the context of a necessary observance of legality.
In face of the prospect of an ever more extended multi-cultural environment, attitudes must be assumed of mutual respect to foster encounter. It is hoped that the Slovak people will retain their cultural identity and the patrimony of ethical and spiritual values, strongly connected to its Catholic tradition. Thus it will be able to open itself without fears to the confrontation in the widest continental and global horizon, contributing to a sincere and fruitful dialogue, also on subjects of vital importance, such as the dignity of human life and the essential function of the family. Today more than ever it is necessary to illumine peoples’ journey with Christian principles, taking the opportunities that the present situation offers to develop an evangelization that, with new language, renders Christ’s message more comprehensible. Therefore, it is important that the Church infuse hope, so that all the changes of the present moment are transformed into a renewed encounter with Christ, which pushes your people to genuine progress. The lay faithful, called to animate temporal realities with evangelical ferments, cannot excuse themselves from working as well within the political processes geared to the common good. To be joyful witnesses of the Gospel in every environment, they need to feel themselves a living part of the Church. It is your task to acknowledge their role in the life of the ecclesial communities, also in regard to the elaboration and realization of pastoral projects.
I appreciate very much what you are doing in favor of the family, which faces so many difficulties and which is subjected to so many snares. These efforts require to be accompanied by an integral family pastoral
Have great paternal solicitude towards the priests, your principal collaborators in the pastoral ministry. They are in need of well-articulated programs of permanent formation in the areas of theology, spirituality, pastoral care and the Social Doctrine of the Church, which will enable them to be competent evangelizers. In fact they are, for a great part of the People of God, the main channels through which the Gospel passes, and also the most immediate image through which they encounter the mystery of the Church. Therefore, their intellectual and doctrinal preparation must always be united to the witness of an exemplary life, to close communion with the Bishops, to fraternity with their brothers in the priesthood, to affability in relations with everyone, and to that type of spiritual peace and apostolic ardor that only constant contact with the divine Teacher can give. In order that the priests feel your presence close, it is of great importance that you be ready to listen to them and to relate to them with trust, showing attention to the difficulties that so often afflict them.
The Church, sign and instrument of men’s unity with God and among themselves, is called to be house and school of communion, in which one is able to appreciate and receive all that is positive in the other. This attitude is also very useful in reference to the good contacts that must be re-established in Slovakia between Pastors and consecrated persons, appreciating better the valid contribution of all the Religious in pastoral activity. At the same time, the Church that is in your country is called to take forward the pastoral care of the Rom, with an endeavor of vast evangelization that seeks to reach all these persons that, unfortunately, continue to live in a certain social separation.
I ask you to have the expression of my affection and my spiritual closeness reach your ecclesial communities; to offer my gratitude to the priests and to the masculine and feminine Religious Communities, which with so much generosity do their utmost to proclaim and witness the Gospel, as well as to the catechists and the other collaborators in the work of evangelization; and to communicate the Pope’s gratitude to the persons and institutions dedicated to charity and solidarity with the neediest. I entrust your pastoral concerns to the Virgin Addolorata, Patroness of Slovakia, and I invoke her maternal intercession so that the country prospers in peace and in conformity with the best values of its Christian tradition. And while I ask you to pray for me, to you and to the faithful of every one of the particular Churches over which you preside, I impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.
[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]