He stands up for migrants, supports vaccinations and is accommodating towards homosexuals.
Pope Francis is not the conservative representative of the Catholic Church that Slovak Catholics loved in John Paul II. That is one reason why some are not enthusiastic about meeting him in person, say theologian Jozef Žuffa, Church analyst Imrich Gazda, and Catholic priests Karol Moravčík and Marián Prachár.
This is one of the three main reasons why the number of people who have registered to attend the papal visit events is so low, though the biggest reason is the strict anti-epidemic measures that were in place until Sunday, September 5. On that day, a week before the arrival of Pope Francis to Slovakia, only the fully vaccinated were to have been permitted to the events.
As of Monday, September 6, the events are open in what is becoming known as the OTP regime in Slovakia (vaccinated, tested or after Covid infection).
The third reason is the pandemic itself and how it affected the attitude of adherents in attending religious services and events. During the lockdown, many became used to watching mass from their living rooms.
"'I will sit in front of the TV, it will be much more comfortable than somewhere in a meadow in Šaštín, and I won't miss out on anything,'" Gazda describes their thinking.
The aforementioned is why only 57,000 people registered for papal visit events as of Sunday, out of which some 30,000 registered for the highlight: the mass in Šaštín.
The overall number makes up just under 13 percent of the capacity of 450,000 the Conference of Bishops of Slovakia (KBS) expected to register three weeks ago.
"Under the current conditions I would not dare express the expectation that almost half a million people will come," Moravčík commented on their estimate.
KBS spokesperson Martin Kramara disagrees. "The numbers are growing, it is not a competition."