Slovakia's modern history is a message of peace in the heart of Europe, Pope says

Pope Francis mentioned solidarity, the need for integration and peace.

President Zuzana Caputova welcomes Pope Francis in front of the Presidential Palace. President Zuzana Caputova welcomes Pope Francis in front of the Presidential Palace. (Source: Sme - Marko Erd)

Pope Francis started his second day in Slovakia with a visit to the Presidential Palace, where he met with President Zuzana Čaputová.

Speaking in front of a crowd of 500 personalities of the political, religious and social spheres gathered in the Presidential Palace garden, the pope said: “I came as a pilgrim to a young country with an ancient history.”

Slovak history invites peace

The pope noted the history of modern Slovakia is a message of peace in the centre of Europe. As a country in the heart of Europe, Slovakia has managed to integrate and differentiate in a peaceful way, despite many trials.

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“We need brotherhood to be able to support integration.”

Pope Francis mentioned solidarity, the need for integration and peace.

He referred to the Slovak tradition of welcoming guests with bread and salt, and noted that God chose bread as a symbol of his presence among people. “The scripture invites us to share the bread.”

The vulnerable are not a burden

Real wealth is based on sharing, not accumulating. The Christian perspective does not view the vulnerable as a burden, the pope noted.

He also stressed the need for justice, which cannot be put up for sale.

Pope Francis also referred to the legacy of Ss Cyril and Methodius. He noted that their message is also one of openness for a new approach, without abandoning one’s roots.

The current pandemic crisis is a chance to reassess our lifestyle, he noted. Pope Francis also called it the “test of our times”. There is no point complaining about the past; you need to roll up your sleeves and build the future together, he added.

“I wish you to do it with your eyes staring up as if you were looking at your beautiful Tatras.”

Call for humanity, mercy and brotherhood

In her speech, President Zuzana Čaputová recalled from her talk with the pope his remark that “God forgives always, man sometimes, nature never.” She mentioned refugees, tolerance of minorities and the danger of antisemitism as well as the climate crisis.

She noted that Pope Francis, his spiritual mission and his thoughts have a place in the hearts of Slovaks.

Čaputová emphasised that he called for humility, mercy and a universal brotherhood, as well as a new culture of politics and new ethics in the economy.

Exchanged gifts

Čaputová gave several gifts to the pope, including a symbolic loaf of bread, a book, but also honey from the Presidential Garden.

The loaf of bread was baked in Trnava bakery Chlieb náš. It was stored in a wicker basket made by a master of folk artistic production Pavol Vrtich from Nové Mesto nad Váhom and covered by bobbin lace from the Centre for Folk Art Production in Bratislava. The rosette pattern on it originates from the village of Slovenský Grob. The blanket was designed by fine artist Božena Janeková in 1987.

The pope also received a book called Reštaurovanie (Restoration) from academic painter Mária Bidelnicová. She focuses on the restoration of sacral monuments, which presents the artistic treasures and faith of ancient masters. It introduces various restoration procedures and techniques on works from the Gothic period to the present.

The president’s gifts also include charging stations for electric cars, as well as medical equipment for the Vatican Fund, which helps fight the pandemic in the poorest parts of the world.

"As the Slovak President and Pope Francis have in common a relationship to the environment and both repeatedly recall the risks associated with climate change and the urgency of the climate crisis, among the donations is a charging station from the Slovak startup company AgeVolt from Bratislava, which they can use in the Vatican to recharge electric cars, “a spokesperson for President Martin Strižinec noted.

Pope Francis gave President Čaputová a medal that refers to his ongoing visit to Slovakia. In the centre of the medal is the Virgin Mary, the patron saint of Slovakia. In the background is a double-cross, one of the country's symbols. The pastoral journey of the Holy Father is also commemorated by the date and text on the edge of the medal.

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