The President welcomed Pope Francis to Slovakia

The President welcomed Pope Francis to Slovakia

On the afternoon of Sunday 12 September 2021, President Zuzana Čaputová welcomed Pope Francis at Bratislava Airport at the start of his four-day visit to Slovakia. 

The President was accompanied at the airport by Mária Patakyová, the Public Defender of Rights, František Mikloško, a representative of the Catholic dissident movement during Communism, Herta Vyšná, a survivor of the Holocaust, and MUDr. Mária Jasenková, the director of Plamienok [tiny flame], a charity that has pioneered palliative care at home for children in Slovakia. These are personalities who symbolise the values that the President associates with Pope Francis: the protection of human rights, freedom and democracy, and compassion for the weakest and most vulnerable.

After a short meeting with Pope Francis, the President said that in these present times marked by pain, sorrow and a polarised society, the Pope’s arrival could be a real impetus to unity, reconciliation and peace.

The Pope was also welcomed by the Speaker of the National Council of the Slovak Republic Boris Kollár, Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic Eduard Heger, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Ivan Korčok and the Head of the Office of the President Metod Špaček together with the Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to the Holy See Marek Lisánsky and the Mayor of Bratislava Matúš Vallo.

The Vatican delegation at the airport included Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue Cardinal Miguel Á. Ayuso Guixot, the Substitute for the Secretariat of State Mons. Edgar Peña Parra, the Apostolic Nuncio to Slovakia Guido Ottonello, the Archbishop of Bratislava and Chairman of the Bishops’ Conference of Slovakia Stanislav Zvolenský,a member of the staff of the Secretariat of State Mons. George Jacob Koovakad, the secretary of the apostolic nunciature in Slovakia Mons. Andriy Yevchuk, a papal master of ceremonies Mons. Ján Dubina and the secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Slovakia Dp. Ivan Ružička.

Around 150 journalists from Slovakia and around the world watched Pope Francis’s arrival at the airport on the tarmac. The Holy Father was also greeted by hundreds of faithful from the parish of Bratislava-Vajnory, where Pope John-Paul II had celebrated Mass on his first visit to Slovakia in 1990. Members of the children’s folklore ensemble Lúčka wearing folk costumes from Važec offered the Pope the traditional welcoming gifts of bread and salt.

The welcoming bouquet that Pope Francis received included only original Slovak varieties of plants and herbs that are typical of our region. These included St John’s wort, ragwort, anise, pincushion, yarrow and aconite. It was made by florist Róbert Bartolen with the aim of symbolically expressing thanks to God for giving the Slovaks a country with such beautiful nature.