BRATISLAVA, Slovakia, SEPT. 15, 2003 (Zenit.org).- In the wake of John Paul II’s visit, the Slovakian bishops’ conference said the clearest challenge facing the Church in the country is that of vocations.
Monsignor Marian Gavenda, a conference spokesman, said that Catholicism in Slovakia is solid, as demonstrated during the years of Communist persecution. But what “is somewhat alarming,” he acknowledged, “is the decrease in vocations.”
In a message to the bishops’ conference on the occasion of his just-ended visit, the Pope said: “The urgent task of promoting a new flowering of priestly and religious vocations is to be undertaken. In fact, the future of the Church in Slovakia depends on this.”
Over the past four years, the number of vocations have been reduced by half, Monsignor Gavenda said.
“There are different causes but among the principal ones is the decrease in births,” he said. “In fact, many schools are being closed in cities, as there are no children.”
Pointing to a related factor, he said: “Since November 1989, the government has blocked almost totally the construction of apartments. Young families which cannot receive help from their parents have enormous difficulties in finding an apartment, even if small, and after years of savings.”
“The propaganda of the commercial media also fosters a consumerist, egotistical life characterized by personal enjoyment and the rejection of all responsibility, beginning with that of children,” the monsignor added.
“The Church reacts in the face of this situation, presenting another model of life, proposing programs of support for large families and criticizing legislation that permits abortion and fails to provide social assistance to new families,” he said.
In spite of these problems, the Church in Slovakia has reason for optimism, the bishops’ spokesman said.
“There are no internal controversies, dogmatic speculations or debates over the sacraments in the Church,” he said. “The bishops have understood that, in the new situation in Europe, the integrity of the faith must be maintained. Only in this way will we be able to server others, with the freshness and strength of faithfulness to the Gospel.”
Since the fall of communism, about 300 churches and pastoral and parish centers have been built, Monsignor Gavenda noted. “In the last five years, 10 very active university pastoral centers have been created where students are prepared to receive the sacraments, and youths try to expose their friends to the faith.”