Pope Francis greets members of the Pontifical Nepomuk College Pope Francis greets members of the Pontifical Nepomuk College   (Vatican Media)

Pope to Pontifical Nepomuk College: Be builders of peace

Pope Francis greets members of the Pontifical Nepomuk College – the seminary for Czechs and Slovaks in Rome, and urges them to build bridges of encounter, peace, and dialogue in times of conflict and war.

By Sophie Peeters

Seminarians of the Pontifical Nepomuk College met with Pope Francis on Thursday for a private audience in the Vatican.

In his address, the Pope recalled the living testimony of the patron saint of the college, St. John of Nepomuk, who lived in Bohemia during the 14th century.

A confessor to the Queen of Bohemia, St. John of Nepomuk refused to reveal to the King what was said in the Queen’s confession.

The Saint was therefore tortured and killed by being thrown off a bridge due to his steadfast devotion to the sacrament.

Pope Francis said his courage is an example of the countless bishops and priests who have similarly endured years of saying “no to regimes” in order to remain faithful to the mission of the Church and their vocation.

Finding the courage to say ‘yes’ to Christ

Steadfastness and courage–traits that can be traced back to Saint John of Nepomuk–should always remain in the seminarians’ vision, the Pope noted, a “living root” for their service as ministers of the Church.

Being able to say “no” to the pressures of the world, heavily exacerbated through media, political powers, and cultural pressures is a key part of being Christian, said Pope Francis.

The “yes” St. John of Nepomuk said to the Church and to Christ is an example for us of “the primacy of conscience over any worldly power.”

“I hope that the Pontifical College that bears the name of the great Bohemian priest and martyr will always be a home and school of freedom, inner freedom, founded on the relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit.”

Building bridges

An appropriate way to honour the memory of St. John of Nepomuk, the Pope reflected, is to “build bridges” within ourselves and of dialogue between different groups of people where there are divisions and misunderstandings.

“We need to be bridges ourselves, humble and courageous instruments of encounter, of dialogue between different and opposing people and groups.”

This is a key trait in the “identity of the minister of Christ,” Pope Francis said, as evidenced by the stories of “so many holy priests and bishops” who have served as peacemakers during moments of conflict and division.

Jesus at the centre

The first step in building these “bridges” of fraternity and dialogue, the Pope continued, is primarily through prayer, or the “knocking insistently on the heart of Christ.”

The Pope then mentioned a meditation delivered by Cardinal Martini in January 1991, during the Gulf War: “Intercession means to place oneself where the conflict takes place, between the two sides in the conflict. [...] It is the gesture of Jesus Christ on the cross."

In times of war such as today, the Pope said, this reflection is especially relevant, as it is only Jesus Christ who can bring us peace and break the walls of enmity.

Rather than putting ourselves as the centre of our lives, we should only place Jesus as the focus, fleeing from “the temptation of worldly protagonism.”

“It cannot and should not be us at the center, but Him!”

Noting that the Nepomuk College has grown to include many different nationalities, the Pope concluded by saying that diversity is a way to practice building better “bridges” as “servants of the culture of encounter, able to grasp on the other the peculiar originality and at the same time the common humanity.”

10 November 2022, 11:09