Pope Francis meeting the Slovakian pilgrims  in the Paul VI Audience Hall Pope Francis meeting the Slovakian pilgrims in the Paul VI Audience Hall 

Pope encourages Slovakian pilgrims to promote peace through charity

Pope Francis encourages pilgrims from Slovakia to cultivate the richness of diversity of Slovakian society and Church and its culture of hospitality, commending Slovakia’s solidarity with Ukrainian refugees

By Lisa Zengarini

Pope Francis on Saturday  received in audience some 2,500 pilgrims from Slovakia visiting Rome to thank him for his Apostolic journey to the country from 12-15 September  2021.

They were accompanied by  Archbishop  Stanislav Zvolenský of Bratislava, President of the Slovakian Bishops’ Conference. Participants included, amongst others, representatives of the Roma community and some refugees from Ukraine assisted by Church institutions in Slovakia.

Attending the audience were also Cardinal Jozef Tomko, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and  some representatives of Slovakian authorities, including the President of Parliament and the President of the Constitutional Court. 

the Slovakian pilgrimage in the Paul VI Audience Hall
the Slovakian pilgrimage in the Paul VI Audience Hall

The richness of diversity

Addressing the pilgrims in the Paul VI Audience Hall,  the Holy Father spurred them to continue to cultivate the richness of diversity of Slovakian society which can also be found in the local Church, with its different rites and traditions bringing together the  Christian West and East.

Walking the path of encounter

“When I  came to see you, I wanted to encourage you to walk the path of encounter, all together: young people, families, the elderly, the different communities that have historically been part of your society”, the Pope recalled,  reminding that the  culture of encounter is built on “the search of harmony between diversity, a harmony  that requires welcome, openness and creativity”, he said.

However, Pope Francis noted that "history and in concrete life this harmony is sometimes wounded by our sins and our limitations".   "For this reason", he said, "during my visit, we also prayed for the healing of wounds". He therefore  invited  the Slovakian pilgrims to "never tire to invoke the Holy Spirit”, who "is the Creator of harmony and the balm of wounds"

Working for peace through charity

Pope Francis went on to  proised Slovakian culture of hospitality and solidarity symbolized by the Slavic custom of offering bread and salt to visitors as a sign of welcome which, he noted, has proved itself again in the tragic context of the ongoig war in Ukraine.

Indeed, as pointed out in his introductory remarks by Archbishop Zvolenský, many Slovakian families,  parishes and institutions are offering  shelter and support to Ukranian mothers and children forced to flee thir country  after the Russian invasion.

“Looking at their eyes you are the witnesses  of how war breaks family ties, deprives children of the presence of their fathers, of school, and leaves grandparents stranded”, Pope Francis remarked .

He therefore urged them  “to continue to pray and work for peace, which, he said, “is built in our everyday life, even with these gestures of welcoming charity”.

“Whoever welcomes a needy person performs not only an act of charity, but also of faith, because he recognizes Jesus in his brother and sister.”

The legacy of the Saints Cyril and Methodius

Pope Francis further invited Slovakian Catholics to preserve and cultivate the legacy of  the Saints Cyril and Methodius, the evangelizers of the Slavic nations, building bridges of fraternity together with all the European peoples who have been nourished by the same Christian roots, so that Europe can breath with both its lungs  – Western and Eastern – as called for by Pope St. John Paul II.

Concluding , the Holy Father thanked Slovakian Catholics for their fidelity to Christ, expressed through their living witness of faith,  good ecumenical relations,  charitable deeds, respect for human life and their responsible care for the environment.

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30 April 2022, 13:40