Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin's trip to Slovakia, from 14 to 16 September, will include visits to four cities: Bratislava, Šaštín, Košice and Klokočov, and will coincide with three important anniversaries: the 30th anniversary of the renewal of diplomatic relations between the Slovak Republic and the Holy See; the 1,160th anniversary of the arrival of Saints Cyril and Methodius in the country, and the 20th anniversary of the beatification of two Slovak martyrs, victims of atheist persecution, in 2003 by John Paul II. In addition, two years ago Pope Francis visited the nation.
Ahead of his departure, the Vatican Secretary of State spoke to Vatican News about his visit to the EU nation.
Q: Your Eminence, what do you expect from this visit to Slovakia?
This visit had been planned for three years. For various reasons it was postponed and could only be realized now. But, providentially, it coincides with three anniversaries, namely the 20th anniversary of the beatification of Bishop Vasil' Hopko and Sister Zdenka Schelingova (John Paul II on 14 September 2003 ed.); the 30th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Slovak Republic; and the 1160th anniversary of the arrival of the Holy Brothers Cyril and Methodius in Great Moravia.
It also marks the second anniversary of Pope Francis' Apostolic Journey to the country, which took place in this very month, from 12 to 15 September 2021. This is another reason why this date was chosen, even though it is close to the unexpected calling of elections in Slovakia on 30 September.
The main objectives are those of sharing the faith of the ecclesial communities, strengthening their communion, relaunching the message that the Holy Father left during the apostolic visit, praying together to Our Lady, on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the national Patroness, for the country and for the great intentions that are close to the Pope's heart, first and foremost peace.
The trip also includes moments of dialogue with the country's authorities and interaction with civil society to strengthen cooperation between the Holy See and Slovakia in order to promote values such as social justice, solidarity, fraternity and peace.
Q: Slovakia is a small country; what can it offer the world?
It seems to me that Pope Francis' recent trip to Mongolia showed us clearly that we should not limit ourselves to numbers or the size of a reality to assess its importance and influence.
The same applies to Slovakia. Its small size does not prevent it from making a particularly significant contribution to the world and its transformation, linked to its rich history, its culture, its Christian heritage, its commitment to spiritual values and the promotion of mutual respect and civil and religious coexistence.
Q: Saints Cyril and Methodius are a great example of enculturation and synodality. How can we embody their message today?
The mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius, known as the 'Fathers of the Slavic peoples', and of St. Gorazd, their first disciple and St. Methodius' successor in the episcopate, offers us an extraordinary testimony of how Christianity can successfully integrate into different cultures - a concept known, precisely, as 'enculturation'.
It seems to me that relevant aspects for our times emerge from such a testimony, such as the appreciation of diversity in unity, mutual respect, the need for intercultural and interreligious dialogue, etc. These are the pillars on which a peaceful and inclusive society can be built.
However, I would emphasize above all the effort to translate the contents of our faith into language accessible to our contemporaries and, above all, to the younger generations. All this requires a great capacity to listen to one another, which is the path of synodality in which Pope Francis has set us on.
Q: In Bratislava, Sastin and Klokocov there will be various celebrations, how important is it for the life of the Church to come together in prayer and then act in the world?
I already experienced the joy of participating in the liturgical celebrations during the Holy Father's trip to Slovakia. It was a powerful and spiritually involving experience!
It will be very nice to repeat it: numerous, lively, prayerful, devout assemblies, celebrating their faith and nourishing it with listening to the Word of God, participation in the Sacraments, first and foremost the Eucharist, and devotion to the Virgin Mary, who has a special place in the religiosity of the Slovak people.
I truly hope that there will be many of us in Bratislava, in Sastin and in Klokocov to pray, and I extend an invitation to all to participate, to strengthen our adherence to the Lord, our love for Him, and to find the profound reasons for our commitment in the world, charity towards our neighbor, social justice and service to others, so that the Church can truly be a light for all and transform society with the leaven of the Gospel.