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Pope, in Slovakia, deplores anti-Semitism, says Christian society is based on Beatitudes, not ‘culture wars’

September 14, 2021

As he continued the 34th apostolic journey of his pontificate, Pope Francis spent September 13 in Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital and largest city.

The day followed an eventful Sunday, during which the Pope spent seven hours in Hungary and arrived in Slovakia.

The Pope’s schedule began with a welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace (video) and a courtesy visit with President Zuzana Caputová. The Pontiff then addressed political leaders (video), who were joined by civil leaders, members of the diplomatic corps and religious leaders.

Paying tribute to Slovakia’s legacy of faith—the nation of 5.4 million (map) is 74% Catholic—Pope Francis called on the nation to be a “message of peace in the heart of Europe.”

Saints “Cyril and Methodius identified with all, and sought communion with all: Slavs, Greeks and Latins alike,” the Pope explained. “Their firm faith found expression in a spontaneous openness to others. This is the legacy that you are now called to preserve, so that in our time too, you can be a sign of unity.”

Invoking Christ’s call to be the salt of the earth, the Pope continued, “Organized and efficient structures will not suffice to improve our life as a human community. We need flavor, the flavor of solidarity. Just as salt gives flavor only by dissolving, so too society rediscovers its flavor through the gratuitous generosity of those who spend their lives for others.”

The Pope continued:

In Europe, all too many people live lives of weariness and frustration, overwhelmed by the frenetic pace of life and incapable of finding reasons for inspiration and hope. The missing ingredient is concern for others. . . .

In these lands, until just a few decades ago, a single thought-system [Communism] stifled freedom. Today another single thought-system is emptying freedom of meaning, reducing progress to profit and rights only to individual needs. Today, as then, the salt of the faith acts not by reacting in worldly terms, by engaging in culture wars, but by quietly and humbly sowing the seeds of God’s kingdom, especially by the witness of charity, of love.

Your Constitution expresses the desire that the country be built on the legacy of Saints Cyril and Methodius, Patrons of Europe. Without impositions or pressure, they enriched culture by the Gospel and thus set in motion beneficial processes. This is the path to follow: not the battle for influence and position, but the road pointed out by the saints, the road of the Beatitudes. For the Beatitudes are the inspiration for a Christian vision of society.

The Pope then went to St. Martin’s Cathedral, where he delivered a 30-minute address to clergy, religious, catechists, and seminarians (video). The Pope renewed his critique of what he described as “rigid religiosity,” instead calling for “a humble Church, a Church that does not stand aloof from the world, viewing life with a detached gaze, but lives her life within the world. Living within the world means being willing to share and to understand people’s problems, hopes and expectations.”

Invoking the example of Saints Cyril and Methodius, who “were accused of heresy because they had dared to translate the language of the faith,” the Pope called for freedom, creativity, and dialogue in living the Gospel in our time. Doing so, he said, does not entail docility to the media or public opinion. “We would rather get along by doing what others—or public opinion or the media—decide for us,” Pope Francis observed. “This should not be the case. So often times nowadays we do what the media decide we should do. In this way, we lose our freedom.”

In late afternoon, Pope Francis visited the Bethlehem Center (video), a center for the poor and homeless overseen by the Missionaries of Charity. “The Lord never abandons us; he is always with us,” the Pope said in his brief remarks. We can see him and we cannot see him. Yet he always accompanies us along our life’s journey. Don’t ever forget this, especially when times are hard.”

The Pope then met with members of the Jewish community in a square associated the city’s historic Jewish quarter.

“In a frenzy of hatred, during the Second World War more than a hundred thousand Slovak Jews were killed,” Pope Francis said in his address (video). In an effort to eradicate every trace of the community, the synagogue was demolished. . . . I repeat: let us unite in condemning all violence and every form of anti-Semitism, and in working to ensure that God’s image, present in the humanity he created, will never be profaned.”

After the meeting with the Jewish community, the Pope went to the apostolic nunciature, where he met with the Speaker of the National Council (parliament), Boris Kollár, and with Prime Minister Eduard Heger.


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