A NATIONAL celebration marking the 1,151st anniversary of the arrival of Ss Cyril and Methodius on the territory of modern-day Slovakia took place in Nitra, with thousands of pilgrims from all around Slovakia in attendance. The celebration was held on July 5, a national holiday dedicated to the two Byzantine Christian missionaries, and attracted personalities from the religious and political spheres.

Cyril and Methodius, two brothers from Thessaloniki, Greece, came to the territory of today’s Slovakia in the second half of the 9th century. Though they spent only around 20 years in what was then known as the Great Moravian Empire, they are still considered to be among the most remarkable personalities in the early history of the region.

The spiritual message of the two brothers’ visit helped fuel the Slovak national awakening in the 19th century. Their importance grew in 1980 when Pope John Paul II declared Cyril and Methodius patrons of Europe.

The commemorative event this year featured a ceremonial mass given by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Lublin, Stanislaw Budzik, on Svätoplukovo Square in the centre of Nitra. Addressing the pilgrims, Budzik stressed the importance of the two Byzantine brothers’ mission for the whole of Europe.

“Cyril and Methodius became apostles to the Slavs, bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the large family of the Slavic peoples,” he said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “They laid the foundations for Slavic culture, bringing to all Slavs hope that enables people to survive any hardship that they might encounter during their life’s journey.”

In addition, Apostolic Nuncio to Slovakia Mario Giordana, who also attended the celebrations, brought with him a blessing from Pope Francis. Slovak President Andrej Kiska also sent his best wishes to those taking part in the event.