Slovakia’s national pilgrimage to thank the Pope

Michal Martinka

More than 5000 pilgrims from Slovakia were present on 30 April in Vatican. They come to Rome to give thanks to Pope Francis for his apostolic journey to Slovakia on 12-15 September 2021. The meeting was held in the Paul VI Hall and the Pope underlined in his address the importance of cultivating richness of diversity.

“When I came to see you –said the Pope–, I wanted to encourage you to walk the path of encounter, all together: young people, families, the elderly, the different communities that have historically been part of your society… search of harmony between diversity, a harmony that requires welcome, openness and creativity”.

The Pope also mentioned Slovak culture of hospitality symbolized by Slavic custom of welcoming visitors by bread and salt. This hospitality proven itself in tragic content of welcoming mothers and children who was forced to escape from from Ukraine. Francis then mentioned importance of preservation of the legacy of Saints Cyril and Methodius, the evangelizers of the Slavic nations.

At the end of the audience apologized for his condition and for not being able to come down to greet them, because of his heath problem with the right knee, and ask them to walk up to him.

The Slovak pilgrims were accompanied by Jozef Tomko, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and only one living Slovak cardinal. Present were also Archbishop Stanislav Zvolenský, President of the Slovakian Bishops’ Conference, other bishops of Slovakia, representatives of the Roma community, and some representatives of Slovakian authorities including the President of Parliament and the President of the Constitutional Court.

The audience with the Holy Father was the most important event of the three-day program of Slovaks pilgrimage. On Friday they celebrated mass in the Basilica of Saint Paul outside of the walls, on Saturday they had the audience with the Holy Father and after the audience they went directly to Saint Peter’s Basilica for a mass celebrated by archbishop Stanislav Zvolenský. Pilgrims returned to the Basilica of Saint Paul on Sunday where they participated on an ending mass. In the homily they were encouraged in their Christian life by Greek-catholic bishop Peter Rusnák. In the evening pilgrims prayed the Mariam hymn Akathist in the Basilica of Saint Clement when is buried Saint Cyril.  Saint Cyril and Methodius with Saint Mary “Our Lady of seven sorrows” are the main patrons of Slovakia.