Despite being a journey which lasts just four days, Pope Francis’ Apostolic Visit to Slovakia is one that encompasses many elements.
Two of the highlights are the celebration of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy in Prešov and a visit to the National Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows at Šaštín.
There is also a visit to a homeless centre, a meeting with young people, and an encounter with priests and religious.
Fr Marek Vanus, SVD, works in the parish of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the district of Petržalka in Bratislava. He is also a lecturer in Biblical Theology.
Speaking about the anticipation in his parish ahead of the Pope’s visit, Fr Vanus says “the general expectation is joy.” People are “expecting some encouragement in the faith and to show that the faith is one to be lived, not just through the liturgy but also in helping those less fortunate such as the poor and marginalized.”
He explains that the Pope’s encouragement is important because there is a sense that people are becoming more “indifferent” towards the faith.
Fr Vanus is also hoping that the visit will inspire people who have become lukewarm in the faith to draw nearer.
During his journey, Pope Francis is expected to preside over the Byzantine Divine Liturgy in Prešov and pay a visit to the National Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows at Šaštín.
Fr. Vanus points out that the first of these celebrations concerns the Greek Catholic Rite, while the visit to the Shrine is a meeting of the Roman Rite. With both these celebrations, he says, the Pope is showing his “respect to both traditions that are co-existing in Slovakia.”
Pope in Slovakia: A gift from the faithful
When Pope Francis visits the Cathedral of St Martin in Bratislava on Monday, he will be presented with the reproduction of a renowned sculpture of St Martin and the Beggar, on the occasion of his Apostolic Journey to Slovakia.
On entering St. Martin’s Cathedral in the heart of Bratislava’s city centre, it’s impossible to miss the imposing bronze sculpture which ranks among the greatest artistic treasures in the capital.
It’s entitled “St. Martin and Beggar” and is placed on a marble pedestal on the right side of the nave, in the southeast corner of the cathedral.
The work, which depicts St Martin sitting on a horse, holding a sword, and bending down to a beggar to give him a piece of his cloak, is the work of Austrian sculptor, Georg Raphael Donner who completed it in 1735.
Its message of charity and mercy mirrors that of the Gospels.
St Martin has become one of Europe’s most popular saints. He came from a pagan family but became a soldier and philanthropic Christian.
It seems fitting, therefore, that Pope Francis, who has made the care of the poor and marginalized one of the cornerstones of his pontificate, should receive a miniature reproduction of this sculpture during a visit on Monday morning to St Martin’s Cathedral, where he will also address priests and religious.
The work, made by Francesco Ciardiello, is a gift from the faithful here in Slovakia to a Pope who calls us not to “identify almsgiving with the simple coin offered in haste, without looking at the person and without stopping to talk, to understand what he or she truly needs.”