ŠAŠTIN, Slovakia – The world needs Christians who are “signs of contradiction,” who demonstrate the beauty of the gospel rather than hostility towards others, said Pope Francis.
Celebrating Mass on the last day of his apostolic trip to Slovakia on September 15, the Pope said the country needs such prophets who are “models of fraternal life, where society experiences tensions and hostility”, especially towards those who often feel unwanted.
Slovakia needs Christians “bearers of the sweet fragrance of hospitality and solidarity, where personal and collective selfishness too often prevails, protectors and guardians of life where the culture of death reigns”, he said. he declares.
The Marian Basilica of Šaštin, which attracts thousands of pilgrims each year, houses a 16th-century statue of Our Lady of Sorrows revered by Slovak Catholics. The Pope’s visit to the sanctuary coincided with the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.
Following in the footsteps of Saint John Paul II, who visited the shrine in 1995, Pope Francis visited the basilica privately to pray in front of the statue of Mary with the bishops of Slovakia, the Vatican said.
Reciting a prayer in his name and that of the bishops present, the Pope requested Mary’s intercession for them “in the joys and struggles of our ministry”.
“Queen of the Apostles, refuge of sinners, you know our human limits, our spiritual failings, our pain in the face of loneliness and abandonment: by your gentleness, heal our wounds”, he prayed.
Thousands of Slovaks lined the streets leading to the basilica, pressing against the barricades and saluting as Pope Francis passed in his popemobile. Authorities initially intended to close the streets an hour before the arrival of Pope Francis. However, they delayed the closure for an hour due to the large number of pilgrims present.
Arrived at the site of the open-air mass near the basilica where approximately 60,000 faithful – most wearing masks – greeted him, the Pope greeted and often stopped to greet the children presented to him, by gently patting them on the head or stroking their face. .
In his homily, the Pope reflected on Mary as a “model of faith” for Catholics in Slovakia.
Although she was chosen to be the mother of God, Mary “did not consider it a privilege” and did not lose her humility.
Instead, the Pope said, she accepted “the gift she had received as a mission to accomplish” and set out to bring God’s love to those in need.
Slovak Catholics, through their veneration to Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, also lived their faith as a journey which “is inspired by a simple and sincere devotion, a constant pilgrimage to seek the Lord”.
“By making this trip, you overcome the temptation of a passive faith, content with this or that ritual or ancient tradition,” he said. “Instead, you surrender and go, carrying in your backpacks the joys and sorrows of this life, and thus make your life a pilgrimage of love to God and your brothers and sisters. Thank you for this testimony. ! “
Mary’s faith, he continued, is also prophetic in that it shows “the presence of God in human history” even in times of trial and suffering.
Faith “cannot be reduced to a sweetener to make life more palatable”, and the light brought by Christ dispels the darkness which reveals “my contradictions, my idols, my temptations”.
Finally, Mary’s faith is also compassionate and she understands the sufferings endured by humanity. She is a mother who “wipes our tears, comforts us and points to the definitive victory of Christ”.
Pope Francis encouraged Slovak Catholics to also open their hearts to “a faith that becomes compassion” which “identifies with those who suffer, suffer and are forced to carry heavy crosses”.
It is “a faith which does not remain abstract, but is embodied in communion with those in need. A faith which imitates the way of God, quietly relieves the suffering of our world and waters the soil of the world. ‘story with salvation, “he said. .
Before concluding Mass, the Pope thanked the faithful for having welcomed him to Slovakia and for allowing him “to come among you and to conclude my pilgrimage in the devoted embrace of your people”.