The rich history of the region epitomized in its heroes inspired the Holy Father.
As is customary, Pope Francis dedicated the general audience of September 22 to recap his trip to Budapest and Slovakia, from which he returned exactly a week ago.
It was a pilgrimage of prayer, a pilgrimage to the roots, a pilgrimage of hope. Prayer, roots and hope.
In the course of his recap, the Holy Father spoke of certain personalities who had inspired him, both living people, and holy men and women of the past. We share those accounts:
Remember our roots
When he greeted me, one of the Slovak bishops, already elderly, told me, “I worked as a conductor on the tram, to hide from the communists.” He is good, that bishop: during the dictatorship, the persecution, he was a tram conductor, then he carried out his “profession” as a bishop clandestinely, and no-one knew. This is what it is like, under persecution. There is no prayer without memory. Prayer, the memory of one’s life, of the life of one’s people, their history: committing to memory and recalling. This is good for us, and helps us pray.
Witnesses of faith such as Cardinal Mindszenty and Cardinal Korec, and the Blessed Bishop Pavel Peter Gojdič. Roots that reach as far back as the ninth century, back to the evangelizing work of the saints brothers Cyril and Methodius, who accompanied this journey with their constant presence.
~ Cardinal Mindszenty was mentioned by the Holy Father at the closing Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress. He said:
It is moving to think of Venerable Cardinal József Mindszenty, a son and father of this Church and of this land, who at the end of a life filled with sufferings born of persecution left us these words of hope: “God is young. The future is in his hands. He calls forth whatever is new, young and promising in individuals and in peoples. So we can never yield to despair”
~ Cardinal Korec was mentioned by Pope Francis during his address to Slovakian bishops, priests and religious:
I am always struck by an incident in the history of Cardinal Korec. He was a Jesuit Cardinal, persecuted by the regime, imprisoned, and sentenced to forced labour until he fell ill. When he came to Rome for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, he went to the catacombs and lit a candle for his persecutors, imploring mercy for them. This is the Gospel! It grows in life and in history through humble and patient love.
~ Blessed Bishop Pavel Peter Gojdič worked in opposition to the errant priest who was the president of the Slovak Republic while it was a puppet state of Nazi Germany. He worked against the deportation of Slovak Jews, and when the Communists took over, was imprisoned. He has been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.
Violence agains women
Pope Francis also recognized the testimony of a Slovak girl known as another Maria Goretti. He said that violence against women is “an open wound.”
Equally strong and prophetic is the witness of Blessed Anna Kolesárová, a Slovak girl who at the cost of her life defended her dignity against violence: a testimony that is unfortunately more relevant than ever, as violence towards women remains an open wound everywhere.
Mother Teresa’s nuns
Finally, the Pope praised the nuns who care for the homeless and needy at the Bethlehem Center.
I think of the Missionary Sisters of Charity of the Bethlehem Centre in Bratislava, good sisters, who receive those who are rejected by society: they pray and serve, pray and help. And they pray a lot, and help a lot, without pretence. They are the heroes of this civilization. I would like us all to acknowledge Mother Teresa and these sisters: all together, let us applaud these good sisters!