Pope Francis sees Slovakia as a messenger of peace in the heart of Europe

Pope Francis sees Slovakia as a messenger of peace in the heart of Europe

On Monday 13 September 2021, President Zuzana Čaputová received Pope Francis at the Presidential Palace during his visit to Slovakia. 

After an official welcoming ceremony in the palace forecourt, the President and the Holy Father had a private meeting in the Golden Salon. Later, they came out to the Presidential Gardens for a meeting with leading personalities drawn from political and social life. 

In her speech, the President described the Pope as one of humanity’s most important current moral and spiritual authorities.  “We welcome you, not just as the representative of one of the largest spiritual families on the planet and its values, but also, first and foremost, as the bearer of vital inspiration for the future of humanity. For the future of Slovakia and for the future of Christianity in our country, it is very important how you present the Gospel message for our time – not just as the heritage of our fathers but also as a way to shape the present and guide us into the future."

According to the President, while the world benefits from many intensive connections, it is also tragically divided. “Every crisis, the pandemic being no exception, brings strong words and strong gestures. A peaceful tone, sympathy and understanding are increasingly seen as expressions of weakness. It is as if we had gradually got used to the idea that all human activity, all social and political discussion, should aim towards the defeat of opponents with different opinions.  If, however, our goal is a different and better future, we need to reject this approach. The outcome of all our activity, social discussion and political competition should not be victory or defeat but understanding and the finding of common ground. The world is facing many crises and the only way to get through them is with cooperation. The only thing we need is our humanity. When we look at any other person, I am aware that you are me and I am you and that we are one. Therefore, let us have the courage to be human. We have no choice but to live together and that is impossible without understanding or mutual support.”

The President emphasised that the Pope’s method of proclaiming the Gospel and the Pope’s personal moral standpoints appealed to people far beyond the visible limits of the Catholic church. “You call for humility, mercy and universal brotherhood. You challenge us to create a new culture in politics and new ethics in the economy. In your social encyclicals, you warn of the greatest dangers of our time – populism, national selfishness, fundamentalism and fanaticism. You make clear your opposition to all those who want to abuse religion for political gain. You emphasise that caring for people in need is at the heart of the Gospel, thinking of the homeless and people who have been forced out of their own country by war, terrorism and poverty. On many occasions, you have repeated that Christianity is incompatible with any form of anti-Semitism or other religious intolerance."

The President concluded by thanking the Holy Father for coming to visit Slovakia. "Our heritage includes many critical battles for survival, dignity, our language, our individual and national freedom, recognition, tolerance of minorities, the preservation of faith and natural diversity. Even when we made mistakes and suffered setbacks, we managed to get back on our feet, as can be seen in the Slovak National Uprising or November 1989. You have come to a warm and generous people, who honour their traditions and their land. Nearly all the households of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations keep the motto – A guest in the house, God in the house."

Pope Francis began by thanking President Zuzana Čaputová for the words of welcome that she had addressed to him. “I have come as a pilgrim to a young country, yet one with an ancient history, a land of deep roots situated in the heart of Europe. It was an outpost of the Roman Empire and a point of encounter between Western and Eastern Christianity. From Great Moravia to the Kingdom of Hungary, from the Czechoslovak Republic to the present day, you have overcome numerous trials and attained integration and distinctiveness through a fundamentally peaceful process. Twenty-eight years ago, the world followed with admiration the peaceful emergence of two independent countries. I find it interesting that this happened immediately after the canonisation of Saint Agnes of Bohemia. This history challenges Slovakia to be a message of peace in the heart of Europe."

Pope Francis described the pandemic as the great test of our times. “It has taught us how easy it is, even when we are all in the same boat, to withdraw and think only of ourselves. Let us instead set out anew from the realization that all of us are frail and in need of others. None can stand apart, either as individuals or as a nation. May we take up the challenge of this crisis, which only makes it “all the more urgent that we rethink our styles of life”. It is useless to hurl recriminations about events of the past; we need to roll up our sleeves and together work to build the future. I encourage you to do so, lifting up your eyes as when you gaze upon your splendid Tatra mountains. There, amid forests and mountaintops that point heavenward, God seems more close and creation appears as an unspoiled home that over the centuries has sheltered one generation after another. Your mountains combine in one range a variety of peaks and landscapes, spilling over national borders in order to join together in beauty different peoples. Cultivate this beauty, the beauty of the whole. It requires patience and effort, courage and sharing, enthusiasm and creativity. Yet it is the human work blessed by heaven above. God bless you. God bless this land. Nech Boh žehná Slovensko! [God bless Slovakia]”