Vatican City (Fides Service) – During the audience on Wednesday 17 September the Pope told the thousands of visitors from various parts of the world present in St Peter’s Square about his recent apostolic journey to Slovakia: “I thank God for allowing me to make my third visit to that noble country. Once again I voice my gratitude to everyone for the cordial welcome.”
The Holy Father went on to say that during its history Slovakia has always been “faithful to Christ and the Church” and that thanks to recent social and economic growth it now looks with motivated confidence to the future: “I am sure that joining the European Union the Slovak people will make its valid contribution towards the building of Europe also on the level of values. Thanks to God, in fact, it has a rich spiritual heritage which it preserved faithfully despite past fierce persecution ”.
Reflecting on the various events of the Visit to Slovakia the Pope told those present at the audience what he had said to the people he encountered: in Trnava Cathedral the Pope called on Catholics “to be ever bolder witnesses of the Gospel”; at Banska Bystica he underlined “the need to educate, starting within the family, to mature freedom” and he urged the Slovakian Bishops to “continue their work of widespread promotion of Christian life, after the dark years of isolation and communist dictatorship”; at Roznava he recalled the important contribution the rural world made to the building of the nation by holding firmly to its roots of “centuries of Christian tradition”. On the last day of the Papal Pilgrimage, in Bratislava the capital, the Pope presided Mass for the beatification of Bishop Vasil’ Hopko and Sister Zdenka Schelingová , martyr witnesses of the faith in the 20th century: “They are a reminder that amidst terrible suffering the Slovak people, found hope in the Cross of Christ”. Lastly the Pope put Slovakia once again under the protection of the Our Lady, the Sorrowful Mother, the country’s patroness, calling on the Blessed Virgin to protect Slovakia “that it may treasure the Gospel, the greatest good, share it and witness to it by means of holiness of life”. SL (Fides Service 18/9/2003 EM lines 27 Words: 364)