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Pastoral Letter of the Conference of Slovak Bishops

on the occasion of the visit of the Holy Father Francis to Slovakia (29. 8. 2021)

Dear brothers and sisters!

Preparation for the visit of famous personalities always requires great organizational commitment of a large number of people and that in front of the whole society. Exchanges of opinions are also a natural part; tensions and questions arisen from the advancing time and the development of a particular situation are not missing.

Then comes the moment when all people of good will realize that the arrival of the expected guest is already immediate; that he himself is so close - directly in front of our door. It is a moment when everything should be calmed down and concentrated on the meeting with him.

Through the experience of personal presence you can suddenly understand what is just "here and now" really essential, really important. Such an incitement is the fruit of many silent prayers and sacrifices with intention for the spiritual benefit of meeting with the Holy Father.

In a few days, Pope Francis will get off the plane and he will touch the Slovak land for the first time.

What is the basic motivation of his visit the Holy Father himself has already said: as the Successor of St. Peter, "to whom the Lord entrusted the task of confirming his brothers and sisters in faith" (says the Apostolic Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to all consecrated people on the occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life, 2014). The motto and logo of his visit to Slovakia deeply resonate with these words - and with the whole spirituality of the Holy Father: With Mary and Joseph on the way to Jesus. Pope Francis, the Marian worshiper who proclaimed the Year of St. Joseph, is now coming to encourage us to even deeper faith in Jesus; Jesus alive and effectively present, personally close to everyone.

In the power of the present moment we will - guided by the Holy Spirit - perceive the uniqueness of the Pope's mission, and that too according to the content of meetings in various locations of Slovakia:

As the High Priest of Christ: at the celebration of the Holy Mass in Šaštín and the Byzantine Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in Prešov.

As a Pontifex - a Bridge Builder: during an Ecumenical meeting with church representatives and at the Holocaust memorial in Bratislava.

As the Good Shepherd of the peripheries: among the sisters of Mother Teresa in Petržalka and in the Roma community at Luník.

As a Brother and a Teacher and an Apostle: in front of bishops, priests and consecrated people in Bratislava's Cathedral of St. Martin, and in front of young people at the Lokomotíva Stadium in Košice.

Everywhere we will perceive Pope Francis as Peter - Rock: after all, everyone needs to know what God has revealed to us, what to believe, what God asks of us and how to behave, above all, in the matters of true faith and morals – which is the irreplaceable role of the Pope.

One of the manifestations of a spiritually sensitive heart is also a personal presence at the meetings with the Holy Father. We are fully aware of how complicated the situation is in this regard. However, we are all the more appealing to those who would not have obstacles to participate personally. We invite and encourage you: bring the necessity of registration as a sacrifice for the Church and the salvation of immortal souls - and come personally to create a community of unity of brothers and sisters who want to walk with Mary and Joseph on the way to Jesus. Don't stay at home, dear brothers and sisters. Come! Bratislava, Prešov, Košice and Šaštín are looking forward to seeing you!

Of course, we also pray for inner peace and open heart for all of you who, for whatever reason, will accompany Pope Francis through the media. You too will be part of a community joined with desire to draw strength from the Pope's words for the authentic life of Christians in modern society.

Regardless of all, we all want - inspired by Pope Francis - to acknowledge the timelessness of Jesus' words in the Gospel of today´s Sunday. And at the same time make a serious resolution: never to abandon God's commandment because of human customs and doctrines; we do not want to "praise the Lord with our lips," but with a heart far from him (cf. Mark 7: 6 - 8). We want to be close to him, truly, not just outwardly but with all our heart.

Proximity to Jesus is actually the path of Virgin Mary; path with Our Lady. The Pope will meet her several times in Slovakia. In Bratislava's St. Martin's Cathedral he will pass by the altar of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows; in Prešov the Holy Father will crown the icon of the Most Holy Mother of God of Klokočov; and this journey under the protection of the Mother of God will end in the National Marian Shrine in Šaštín, at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows.

Dear brothers and sisters, we entrust the visit of Pope Francis to Slovakia and the Holy Father himself under the protection of Our Lady. May she as our patron and our Mother together with St. Joseph grant us that we get closer to Jesus and embrace him into the depth of our heart as our personal Savior and Redeemer.

We will therefore end our pastoral letter with a prayer of the Supreme Shepherd of the Church, Pope Francis. He presented it at the end of his meditation on the seven sorrows of the Mother of God:

"Thank You for accepting to be Mother when the Angel said it to You, and thank You for accepting to be Mother when Jesus said it to You.” (Homily "Our Lady of Sorrows: Disciple and Mother", April 3, 2020). Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

We look forward to seeing you during the visit of the Holy Father in Slovakia!

With Blessings,

All Slovak Bishops

Read instead of Homily at all services on the 22nd Sunday of the Ordinary Time, August 29, 2021