Pope Says Goodbye to Slovakia: End of 34th Trip

Papal Plane Returns to Rome

Fin viaje Papa Eslovaquia
Pope says goodbye to Slovakia at Bratislava airport, September 15, 2021 © Vatican Media

Pope Francis said goodbye to Slovakia today. Around 1:30 pm today (local time in Rome), September 15, 2021, Pope Francis arrived at the International Airport of Bratislava to return to Rome, thus ending his 34the International Apostolic Journey to Budapest, Hungary, and to Slovakia.

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The Holy See Press Office reported that the President of the Republic, Zuzana Čaputová welcomed the Holy Father at the entrance of the VIP Room, where a private meeting was held for a few minutes. After going through the Guard of Honour, and receiving the greeting of the delegations, the Pontiff was the last person to board Alitalia’s A320 plane, which took off at 1:48 pm.

Telegram to the President of Slovakia

Immediately after leaving Bratislava by plane, the Holy Father sent the following telegraphic message to the President of the Republic of Slovakia, Mrs. Zuzana Čaputová.

“As I depart Slovakia, at the conclusion of my Apostolic Journey, I wish to express my deep gratitude to Your Excellency and the Slovak people for your generous welcome and hospitality. In renewing the assurance of my prayers for the Nation’s peace and well-being, I invoke upon all of you God’s abundant blessings,” reads the text.

Francis’ 34th International Apostolic Journey

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So Pope Francis’ 34th International Apostolic Journey has ended, whose destinies were Budapest, Hungary — for the closing of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress –, and Slovakia, a country in which he visited Bratislava, Košice, Prešov, and Šaštin.

In total, the Pope pronounced 12 allocutions, between addresses, greetings, and homilies. The main subjects of this pilgrimage were martyrdom and repression, but also the evangelizing mission, as the Slav Apostles Cyril and Methodius, taught, as well as the ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue and European issues. According to the Holy Father’s intention, Eucharistic Adoration marked his stay in Hungary, whereas in Slovakia he went on pilgrimage in prayer to Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows.


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In Budapest, His Holiness met with the President of the Republic, János Áder, and the Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán. He also held a meeting with the Hungarian Bishops and, in face of an ecclesial past marked by martyrdom, he pointed out that it is necessary “in the life of the Church, to always keep together these two realities: to guard the past and look to the future.” In his address to the representatives of the Ecumenical Council of Churches and some Jewish communities in Hungary, he called these religious leaders to unity.

The main event in Budapest was the closing Mass of the Eucharistic Congress on Sunday, September 12. In his homily, the Pontiff said that to “walk after Jesus “ is “to go forward in life with His same confidence, that of being loved children of God. It’s to follow the same way of the Master, who came to serve and not to be served (cf. Mark 10:45). It’s to direct our steps every day to encounter a brother. The Eucharist leads us there, to feel ourselves one Body, to break ourselves for others.”


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In Slovakia, the Successor of Peter lived very much an ecumenical meeting with the country’s Christian communities, to which he made two suggestions of unity and liberty, contemplation and charitable action with the poorest, and to the Jewish community he said that together they affirm “the will to continue on a path of closeness and friendship.”

He encouraged the Slovak Bishops, priests, men and women religious, Deacons and catechists to “grow free from a rigid religiosity,” and asked them not to yield “to the temptation of magnificence, of worldly grandeur. The Church must be humble as Jesus, who despoiled Himself of everything, who made Himself poor to enrich us.” In his address to the Slovak Authorities, Pope Francis highlighted that the country’s history “calls Slovakia to be a message of peace in the heart of Europe,” and it is marked by faith, inspired in the heroic lives of the Holy Brothers Cyril and Methodius.

On Tuesday, September 14, the Bishop of Rome went to the city of Prešov where he celebrated Saint John Chrysostom’s Divine Liturgy, a Mass in memory of the Greek-Catholic martyrs. The Pontiff also visited the Lunik IX neighborhood of Košice, to share time with the gypsy community to whom he repeated Saint Paul VI’s words: “You are not on the margin in the Church . . . You are at the heart of the Church.” The day ended in that city with a mass meeting with Slovak young people, whom he exhorted to love with responsibility and commitment, to water the roots, going to their parents and grandparents to receive the embrace of Confession and to embrace the Cross with Jesus.

Today, after taking part in private in a prayer ceremony with the Slovak Bishops, Pope Francis presided over the Holy Mass on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Virgin Mary of the Seven Sorrows, Patroness of Slovakia, in the esplanade of the National Shrine of Šaštin. In his homily, the Holy Father scrutinized the Gospel reading to call <the faithful> to look at Mary, “model of faith, who sets out, is prophecy and leads to compassion.

Gifts to the Nunciature

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The Holy Father gave the Nunciature in Slovakia, where he lodged over these days, the Papal Medal made for the Apostolic Journey to Slovakia: Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, Patroness of Slovakia, represented in the center of the Medal, on a curved and texturized background. Behind the Virgin’s image is a double Cross, one of the country’s symbols. The date and text referring to the Apostolic Journey to Slovakia are engraved around the border.

The Nunciature was also given the gift of a mosaic of the Pontiff’s Coast of Arms, totally made in mosaic using the traditional technique of manual cutting and fitting of each of the colored tiles.

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In the superior part of the papal Coat of Arms is the symbol of the Society of Jesus. It is made up of a radiant and flamboyant sun, that encloses the acronym IHS and, on it, a Cross with three nails at the base. The acronym IHS stands for Iesus Hominum Salvator (Jesus, Saviour of Humanity), or In Hoc Signo (Vinces), of Constantinian memory, whereas later the Jesuits interpreted it as Habemus Iesum Socium (We have Jesus as a companion) and Societas Iesu Humilis (Humble Society of Jesus).

In addition to the symbol of the Society of Jesus, there is a star that, according to heraldic tradition, symbolizes the Virgin Mary and a lily, which in Hispanic iconography makes reference to Saint Joseph’s chastity.

With the choice of these symbols for his Coat of Arms, Pope Francis wished to express not only his particular devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus and his belonging to the Jesuits but also his devotion to the Virgin Mary and to Saint Joseph, her husband.

Instead, the motto that accompanies the Pope’s Coat of Arms — Miserando Atque Eligendo — renders homage to the Divine Mercy. It is taken from Saint Bede The Venerable’s homilies who, commenting on the Gospel episode of Saint Matthew’s vocation, wrote: Vidit ergo Iesus publicanum et quia miserando atque eliendo vidit, ait illi Sequere me (Jesus saw a tax collector and, looking at him with a loving sentiment chose him <and> said to him: “Follow Me.”

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester