Top state officials and thousands of pilgrims marked the 1150th anniversary of the arrival of Ss Cyril and Methodius to the territory of today’s Slovakia on July 5 during the national celebrations held in Nitra. The main celebrant of the ceremonial mass on Svätopluk Square in the centre of Nitra was the special legate of Pope Francis and Slovenian cardinal, Franc Rodé. He also brought a letter from the pope in which he pointed to the significance of the mission of the ‘Apostles to the Slavs’ in Great Moravia in 863.

“They came to the territory of present-day Slovakia with the Gospel message and began bestowing the Lord’s saving grace upon people,” reads the letter, as reported by the TASR newswire. “Apart from sacred nourishment with the holy liturgy, they also brought education and culture. The two brothers realised the antiquity and rightness of these sacred traditions, and without any fear they used the Slavic language for liturgical rituals. It therefore rightly behoves us to commemorate and praise this event.”

The pope added that although he was not able to attend the celebrations in person, he was spiritually present with the participants in the National Pilgrimage.

The pontiff sent a special letter to President Ivan Gašparovič, who also attended the celebrations, and called on representatives of the state to strive for “the common good, respect and promotion of authentic values to build an ever more fraternal society”.

“I invoke an abundance of God’s blessings upon your Excellency and other leading state officials, as well as the entire Slovak nation,” wrote the pope, as reported by TASR.

Gašparovič praised the mission of the Byzantine brothers as fundamental for the creation of national awareness, and stated that the two men also deserve credit for being “great teachers, scientists, missionaries, linguists, lawyers, diplomats and outstanding figures”.

The national celebrations were also attended by Apostolic Exarch of the Greek Byzantine Catholic Church Dimitrios Salachas, head of the modest Catholic community in predominantly Orthodox Greece. According to data from 2006, the community had only 2,006 members, mostly concentrated in Athens, with one small parish in Turkey as well, TASR reported.

Other events organised to celebrate the two brothers took place at different sites around the country, including Devín Castle, where Fico delivered a speech in which he called on the participants to acquire and develop the abilities to protect the state and national interests of Slovakia, the SITA newswire wrote on July 8.

To mark the anniversary the National Bank of Slovakia (NBS), the country’s central bank, issued 10,000 copies of a special €2-coin.

“The significance of a coin does not necessarily depend on the metal from which it is produced or its nominal value,” said NBS governor Jozef Makúch, as quoted by TASR, adding that the coin has been made from standard materials and has the usual nominal value of €2, and that its significance lies “in the message that we want to transmit by this coin”.

Among the first recipients were President Gašparovič, Prime Minister Robert Fico and Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška, TASR wrote.

Source: TASR, SITA

Compiled by Radka Minarechová from press reports

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