Bratislava (Fides Service) – “I thank the Lord for granting me the joy of treading the third time onto the beloved land of Slovakia. I come as a pilgrim of the Gospel to bring to everyone greetings of peace and hope”. With these word pronounced during a welcome ceremony at Bratislava airport on Thursday 11 September, Pope John Paul II commenced his third visit to this country. Recalling that “Slovakia’s civil and religious history was written also with the contribution of heroic and dynamic witnesses of the Gospel” the Pope mentioned “Saints Cyril and Methodius, apostles of the Slavs” and “other generous servants of God and mankind” in particular Bishop Vasil’Hopko and Sister Zdenka Schelingova who will be listed among the Beatified tomorrow, Sunday 14 September.
In his address the Pope mentioned that Slovakia is in line to join the European Community of peoples: He said: “In the near future your country will become a full member of the European Community. Dearly beloved, bring to the construction of Europe’s new identity the contribution of your rich Christian tradition! Do not be satisfied with the sole quest for economic advantages. Great affluence in fact can also generate great poverty. Only by building up, not without sacrifices and difficulties, a society respectful of human life in all its expressions, that promotes the family as a place of reciprocal love and growth of persons, that seeks the common good and is attentive to the needs of the weakest, will there be guarantees of a future based on solid foundations and rich in goods for all.”
The Pope ended his address as follows: “In the days to come my pilgrimage will lead me to the Dioceses of Bratislava-Trnava, Banská Bystrica and Rožňava. But my desire at this moment is to embrace - at least in spirit - all the sons and daughters of Slovakia, together with the representatives of national minorities and of other religions…. Please know that the Pope is thinking of each one of you and is praying for you all.”
Later on that day the Pope went to Trnava Cathedral dedicated to St John the Baptist. In his greeting to the lucky hundreds inside the church and to many more outside the Pope said: “ Saint John the Baptist is the man who lives in a solitude full of God’s presence and he becomes the voice that announces the coming of the Saving Lamb “ and he encouraged all “to nourish within yourselves the sense of God’s presence by listening to his Word, by prayer, by the celebration of the Sacraments, by service to your brothers and sisters. In this way you will become in your everyday life, like John the Baptist, heralds and witnesses to the loving and saving presence of God in today’s world” SL (Fides Service 12/9/2003 EM lines 31 Words: 441)