By Massimiliano Menichetti
Pope Francis is preparing to leave for his 34th apostolic journey during which he will close the Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, then visit Slovakia. There is great expectation for the arrival of the Successor of Peter. Cardinal Pietro Parolin reitreates that it is a double apostolic visit which the Pope himself announced on his return from Iraq stating that it was born of desire and prayer. Speaking to Vatican News, the Cardinal Secretary of State underlines that “The pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Šaštin in Slovakia will be a "pilgrimage that takes place after the Pope’s surgery, therefore in a certain sense also to thank Our Lady for the success of this operation".
A. -During the interview on his return from Iraq, the Pope himself announced his desire and intention which - as often happens with journeys - was born, he says, out of prayer. The desire and intention to go and preside at the concluding Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, which had already been postponed because of Covid-19, and then given the closeness, to go to Slovakia and visit the country.
The archbishop of Budapest, Cardinal Erdö, reiterated that Hungary needs the light of faith to feel and deepen brotherhood with all peoples. What fruits do you expect from the Eucharistic Congress?
A. - The Eucharistic Congresses are occasions for celebration, reflection, study, deepening of the mystery of the Eucharist, and therefore the International Congress of Budapest also has this aim. In fact, in these days all these moments, both celebratory and more academic, of deepening are taking place. The Eucharistic Congress should then lead to a life that is Eucharistic: just a few days ago I re-read the homily that Pope Francis gave in 2018 in Molfetta on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the death of Don Tonino Bello. At that time he said, among other things: "In every parish, in every church there should be this inscription: 'After Mass you no longer live for yourself, but you live for others'". I believe that this is the meaning of what Cardinal Erdö was saying, that is: the Eucharist immerses us in the love of Christ, in the very life of Christ which is a love with universal dimensions, and therefore must make us capable of seeing in every man and woman, in every person, a brother or sister whose burdens we must bear.
In Slovakia, the Pope will be welcomed by a population where the memory of Saints Cyril and Methodius is alive: a visit that reaffirms the spiritual bridge of dialogue between East and West ...
A. - Certainly. The figure of Saints Cyril and Methodius is one that has profoundly characterised the entire history of the Slovak Nation: in the Constitution itself, in the preamble, I believe they are spoken of as spiritual and cultural Fathers of the Nation. And John Paul II, in the Slavorum Apostoli, speaks of them as a bridge between East and West. What we can grasp of these saints - and I believe that their message is current, perennial, among other things, they are also Patrons of Europe, requested by John Paul II - is this ability, first of all, to inculturate the Gospel. They knew how to speak to the people of their time, they knew how to proclaim the Gospel in categories that were accessible to them, and this is an invitation to do what Pope Francis is asking us to do when he speaks of an outgoing Church, of a Church that must be entirely directed towards the evangelisation of the world: being directed towards the evangelisation of the world means finding the right language so that the world can receive the proclamation of the Gospel. Therefore, on the one hand this inculturation, this missionary thrust, and on the other hand also the fact of knowing how to insert this diversity of spirituality, of forms of expression of spirituality, of culture of language also in the Catholic unity which thus becomes a symphonic unity and not a uniform one.
The programme of the visit was packed, including a meeting with the Roma community, a sign of the Pope's attention to this reality...
A. - It seems to me that this meeting is in continuity with the meeting that the Pope had two years ago in Romania with the Roma community, where he expressed from the depths of his heart all the pain for the suffering that this community had been subjected to, that this community had had to endure over time. This strong participation of the Pope's in the pain of the people, is therefore also the request for forgiveness for how much responsibility we - the Church or men of the Church may have had - in this situation. At the same time it also becomes, on the one hand, attention to this population, therefore respect, but also appreciation for the values that they express - and there are many: from the value of the family to the value of solidarity, hospitality, care for the elderly and so on - and on the other hand, the effort that is being made to integrate them fully into society.
The Pope will preside over Mass at the National Shrine of Šaštin on the feast day of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, Patroness of Slovakia. This is a stop that the Pope did not want to miss ...
A. - Certainly, and in a certain sense, he extended his trip to participate in this popular feast of great devotion to the Patroness of Slovakia. I believe that on the one hand this is an indication of the great consideration that the Pope has always given to popular religiosity, to popular piety, but above all to devotion to Our Lady, which he has experienced directly in Latin America, in Argentina, in all the countries of that continent, but which is also strongly rooted in Europe. This Shrine of Šaštin is an example of how important devotion to Our Lady is for the life of faith of a people, of a community. At the same time, I would also like to underline the fact that this pilgrimage is taking place after the Pope's surgery, so in a certain sense it is also a way of thanking Our Lady, certainly, for the success of this operation, but also to entrust to Her all those who find themselves in situations of fragility, of vulnerability, of suffering, including physical suffering, as he has been going through in this period, especially taking into account the situation, the contingency of the pandemic which is still, unfortunately, causing pain in many countries.
Your Eminence, in what spirit is the Pope leaving?
A. - He said it himself, last Sunday, after his Angelus on 5 September. He said: "Desire ...", so there is a great desire to meet these faithful, to meet these Churches, taking into account that apostolic trips have been thinned out because of Covid. The Pope feels the need, precisely, intensely to resume this form of exercise of his Petrine ministry and this possibility of contact with the people that characterizes his style and his way of being.