BANSKA BYSTRICA, Slovakia, SEPT. 12, 2003 (Zenit.org).- On the second day of his visit to Slovakia, John Paul II made a heartfelt appeal to Christians to abandon the mediocrity promoted by worldly lifestyles.
“In our days, many baptized Christians have not yet made their faith their own in an adult and conscious way,” the Pope said today when celebrating an outdoor Mass before 150,000 people.
“They call themselves Christians and yet they do not respond in a fully responsible way to the grace they have received; they still do not know what they want and why they want it,” he lamented before the crowds gathered in SNP Square, the site of national resurgence during the Communist regime.
“This is the lesson to be learned today: An education to freedom is urgently needed,” the Holy Father stressed.
“Especially in the family, parents must educate their children to a correct freedom, so as to prepare them to respond properly to God’s call,” he said. “The family is the nursery where the little plants, the new generations, are nurtured. In the family, the future of the nation is forged.”
The crowds spilled over from SNP Square onto the adjacent streets. John Paul II seemed serene and contented, especially in the presence of numerous young people.
Many in the crowd waved white and yellow papal flags and shouted, “John Paul, John Paul.”
The Pope seemed in better health than he did at the welcome ceremony on Thursday. But to avoid greater fatigue his aides suggested that the principal passages of his homily be read by Slovak Cardinal Jozef Tomko.
The homily focused on the liturgical feast of the day, the Holy Name of Mary. Featured before the great altar, in the center of the square, was the statue of the Blessed Virgin which 40 years ago was removed from the site when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visited the city.
During the homily, the Pope explained that that image of Mary “reminds us of the respect and devotion of your parents for the Lord Almighty.”
At the end of the ceremony, the young people of the diocese gave the Holy Father a personal gift: two of them, dressed in red, black and gold, placed in his hands a handwritten copy of the New Testament. The youths spent two months writing the text. The last words were transcribed by Cardinal Jan Chryzostom Korec of Nitra, who spent 12 years in a dark prison cell during the Communist era.
After the Mass, John Paul II lunched with 19 Slovak bishops in the diocesan seminary. He gave them a message, which, in part, urged the promotion of vocations.
Before leaving the Banska Bystrica seminary, the Pope met with representatives of other churches and Christian confessions in Slovakia. Then he went to the chapel, where he greeted the seminarians. He returned to Bratislava by plane, to spend the night in the apostolic nunciature.
On Saturday, the Pope will celebrate Mass in Roznava and spend time with the diocesan community. His visit to Slovakia will culminate on Sunday with the beatification in Bratislava of two martyrs.