Bratislava (Slovakia). As announced on 8 March 2021 on his return from his trip to Iraq, Pope Francis will visit Slovakia from 12 to 15 September 2021. The 34th International Journey of the Holy Father will begin on 12 September with the Concelebration of the concluding Holy Mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, the capital of Hungary.
The program then foresees the arrival in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, and three intense days of events and meetings with trips to the cities of Prešov, Košice, and Šaštin, where he will celebrate the final Holy Mass in the national Marian Shrine dedicated to Our Lady under the title of “Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows”.
“These will be days marked by adoration and prayer in the heart of Europe”, Pope Francis said on September 5 at the Angelus. “I ask everyone to accompany me with prayer, and I entrust the visits I will make to the intercession of so many heroic confessors of the faith, who bore witness to the Gospel in those places amid hostility and persecution. May they help Europe to witness even today, not so much in words, but above all with deeds, with works of mercy and acceptance of the good announcement of the Lord who loves us and saves us.”
“We look forward to the Pope’s visit to Slovakia”, said Sr. Monika Skalová, Provincial of St. John Bosco Province (SLK), interviewed by the national broadcaster Radio Lumen. “In receiving the news I had the same sentiments as Elizabeth when visited by Mary, ‘And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’ (Lk 1:39).”
One month before the date of the Pope’s arrival, the Provincial wrote a letter to the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of the Communities, inviting them to be present at the moments of encounter with the Holy Father and underlining the reasons that make this event significant for the nation and for the Church. “Pope Francis will find a society and a Church that are not ‘shining’, yet hungry for peace, reconciliation, mutual acceptance, and faith oriented towards the essential. If we truly live the faith according to the Gospel, we will come out of our securities towards the peripheries and we will be a gift for others, through service and evangelical witness”.
“Quali sono le aspettative per la visita del Papa?”. È la seconda domanda dell’intervista a cui suor Monika risponde: “Quando seguiamo le visite del Papa e i suoi interventi, sempre ci toccano, ci risvegliano e le sue parole sono profetiche per il tempo odierno, ‘disturbano’ – in senso positivo – aprendo così le possibilità all’esperienza di fede oggi. Credo che ci incoraggerà e ci suggerirà come vivere la fede in modo autentico”.
“What are the expectations for the Pope’s visit?” This is the second question of the interview to which Sr. Monika replies, “When we follow the Pope’s visits and his interventions, they always touch us, awaken us, and his words are prophetic for today’s time. They ‘disturb’ in a positive sense thus opening up possibilities for the experience of faith today. I believe he will encourage us and suggest to us how to live the faith in an authentic way.”
The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians are present in Slovakia in 15 communities, as well as a community in Azerbaijian, in Baku. In Bratislava and Košice, two of the cities on the Pope’s itinerary where FMA communities are present, the sisters will participate in the event with the young people. The FMA of other Communities will join in particular, for the Meeting with Bishops, Priests, Religious, Seminarians, and Catechists at the Cathedral of St. Martin in Bratislava on 13 September, and for the concluding Holy Mass in the esplanade of the National Shrine of Šaštin, on 15 September.
“With Mary and Joseph on the way to Jesus” is the theme of this ‘spiritual pilgrimage’, represented by the logo depicting a road symbolizing the way to the cross inside a heart, a reminder of St. Joseph’s love for Jesus, to whom Pope Francis dedicates this ‘special’, and of Our Lady, the patron of Slovakia. The seven stars are a reference to the ‘Seven Sorrows’ of the name attributed to Mary. The elements of the logo have the white, blue, and red colors of the Slovakian flag and the white and yellow of the Vatican flag.
Slovakia, officially the Slovak Republic, has a population of more than 5 million and a territory of approximately 49,000 square kilometers. The largest city, Bratislava, is also the capital and the second is Košice. It borders the Czech Republic to the northwest, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, and Austria to the southwest. It is a member state of the European Union, NATO, the United Nations, the OECD, and the WTO. The official language is Slovak, a language belonging to the Slavic language group.
62% of believers belong to the Catholic Church, with 8 Dioceses of the Roman Rite and 3 of the Byzantine Rite. There are 1560 parishes, in which 3086 priests work. In Slovakia, there are more than 2750 consecrated men and women living in 44 female religious institutes and 28 male institutes. Consecrated persons are actively present in the Church with the Conference of Major Superiors (KVRPS).