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Friday, September 12, 2003


VATICAN CITY, SEP 11, 2003 (VIS) - This afternoon at 5 p.m. the Holy Father travelled 60 kilometers in the popemobile from the apostolic nunciature in Bratislava to the Cathedral of Trnava, dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The first sacred monument of the Baroque style in the country, it has been a metropolitan cathedral since 1977 and can accommodate approximately 400 people.

Trnava is one of the oldest Slovak cities and has had an important role in the country's history. It was born as a center of commerce on the crossroads between European commercial routes that join the Czech regions with Hungary and the Balkans, and the Mediterranean countries with the Baltic Sea. It has been the regional capital since the last administrative reformation in 1996 and has more than 70,000 inhabitants.

After arriving at the cathedral, John Paul II prayed for a few minutes. He then said: "From this church, mother of all the churches in the diocese, I extend my affectionate greetings to all the people of this territory and upon all of you I invoke the Lord's grace and blessing."

Speaking about St. John the Baptist, the Pope said that he is "the man who lives in a solitude full of God's presence. ... I encourage you dear Brothers and Sisters to nourish within yourselves the sense of God's presence by listening to His Word, by prayer, by the celebration of the Sacraments, by service to your brothers and sisters. In this way you will become in your everyday life, like John the Baptist, heralds and witnesses to the loving and saving presence of God in today's world."

After the visit, the Holy Father returned to the apostolic nunciature in Bratislava to spend the night.



VATICAN CITY, SEP 12, 2003 (VIS) - The following telegram was sent to Prime Minister Goran Persson of Sweden by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of State, in the Holy Father's name upon learning of the killing of the country's foreign minister:

"His Holiness Pope John Paul II was saddened to learn of the violent death of Anna Lindh, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and he sends heartfelt condolences to the Government, Ms. Lindh's family and the entire nation. Commending the Minister's soul to the benevolent mercy of Almighty God His Holiness invokes the divine gifts of consolation and strength upon all who mourn her passing.
"I add the expression of my own personal sympathy on this sad occasion and assure you of my prayers."



VATICAN CITY, SEP 12, 2003 (VIS) - Today at 1:45 p.m. the Holy Father ate lunch in the seminary of Banska Bystrica with bishops from the Slovak Episcopal Conference - which commemorates the 10th anniversary of its constitution on September 15 - and with cardinals and bishops from his entourage. At present there are 19 Slovak bishops: 9 ordinary, 7 auxiliary, 1 coadjutor and 2 emeritus. There are two cardinals: Jan Chryzostom Korec, S.J., bishop of Nitra and Jozef Tomko, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

In a message that he gave them at the end of the gathering, the Pope writes: "The Church of God in Slovakia, after the dark days of persecution and silence, during which it offered a shining witness of faithfulness to the Gospel, has been able in these last years to take up again its activities and to provide itself with those structures that are necessary for the free exercise of its mission."

"You are committed overall," he continues, "to the renewal of Christian life at different levels. The results we are seeing are comforting. Many people have rediscovered the evangelic courage to declare openly their Catholic faith. ... The apostolic work ' carried out under your guidance by so many zealous priests, religious men and women, and committed lay people ' is bearing fruits."

"I exhort you to continue courageously along the path you have begun. Human and spiritual formation, together with an adequate cultural preparation, must be the object of special concern in seminaries and religious houses so as to offer to the Church and to the world priests and consecrated persons who can be humble and ardent apostles of the Gospel. ... The urgent task of promoting a new flowering of priestly and religious vocations is to be undertaken. In fact, the future of the Church in Slovakia depends on this."

John Paul II asks the bishops to take special care of the family, "the temple of love and life. Proclaim and defend the unity and indissolubility of marriage. Look with love on young people who are the present and future of the Church and society. Cultivate an open dialogue with the world of culture."

"Take care of the weak and the poor. ... With pastoral solicitude, be close to the unemployed. Take upon yourselves their difficult situation and encourage all areas of society to seek possible ways to create new jobs."

The Holy Father concludes: "The Pope knows that the Episcopal ministry brings with it thorns and crosses that often remain hidden in the secret of the heart. But he also knows, as do you, that in the mysterious design of Providence, these sufferings are the guarantee of fruitfulness of an apostolate that, with God's help, will produce abundant results. Do not become discouraged! Do not let yourselves be overcome by difficulties and fatigue. Rely always on the support of God's grace."

The Pope is scheduled to leave the seminary in late afternoon, before which he will greet some seminarians as well as a group of representatives from other Churches and Christian confessions in the country and seminarians. Later he will return to Bratislava by plane to spend the night in the apostolic nunciature.



VATICAN CITY, SEP 12, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father flew this morning from Bratislava to Banska Bystrica, 190 kilometers northeast of the capital and then travelled by car to National Risorgimento Square where he concelebrated Mass at 10:30 a.m. Catholics were joined in the celebration for the memorial of the Holy Name of Mary by Christians of other Protestant ecclesial communities.

The Pope remarked that "the place where we are assembled is especially meaningful in the history of your city. It calls to mind the respect and devotion of your ancestors towards Almighty God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. At the same time it recalls the attempt to profane this precious inheritance, perpetrated by a bleak regime of not so many years ago. To all of this the column of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a silent witness."

He then referred to the Gospel passage where Mary "speaks to the Angel Gabriel who communicates to her God's call to become the mother of His Son. The Incarnation of the Word is the decisive moment in that 'project' made known by God from the beginning of human history, after the first sin. His will is to communicate to mankind His very life, by calling men and women to become his children. This call awaits the response of each person. God does not impose salvation; he proposes it as an initiative of love, to which one must reply by free choice, prompted by love."

What is the lesson for us in Mary's immediate willingness to obey the Lord, asked the Pope. "Mary shows us the path towards a mature freedom. In our days, many baptized Christians have not yet made the faith their own in an adult and conscious way. They call themselves Christians and yet they do not respond in a fully responsible way to the grace they have received; they still do not know what they want and why they want it."

"This is the lesson to be learned today: an education to freedom is urgently needed. Especially in the family, parents must educate their children to a correct freedom, so as to prepare them to respond properly to God's call. The family is the nursery where the little plants, the new generations, are nurtured. In the family the future of the Nation is forged."

"Mary believes and therefore she says 'yes'. Her faith becomes life; it becomes a commitment to God, Who fills her with Himself through her divine motherhood. It becomes a commitment to her neighbour, who awaits her help in the person of her cousin Elizabeth."

"My dear Brothers and Sisters," John Paul II concluded, "let us make room for God! In the variety and richness of diverse vocations, each one is called, like Mary, to accept God into one's own life and to travel along the paths of the world with Him, proclaiming His Gospel and bearing witness to His love."

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