Pope Francis urges Slovaks to seek out those most in need as he concludes four-day pilgrimage
Enthusiastic, maskless crowds lined the route of Francis’ motorcade through Sastin, 15 kilometers (about 10 miles) from the western border of Slovakia, and they were rewarded with a slow papemobile jaunt and a smiling Francis. and waving as he arrived at the vast field.
Organizers said 45,000 people had pre-registered to attend, showing proof of COVID-19 vaccination to receive a barcode giving them access to the site. A few thousand unvaccinated pilgrims were admitted with proof of a negative test or having been cured of the virus. Almost no one in the crowd wore face masks.
The place was the National Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows, the most important in Slovakia dedicated to the Virgin Mary, where Saint John Paul II prayed in 1995. Every September 15, pilgrims from Slovakia and elsewhere flock to Sastin on feast day of Slovakia. boss, some this year spending the night on the dusty field to have a better place.
During his homily, Francis exhorted the pilgrims to open their hearts to compassion and to live a faith “which identifies with those who suffer, suffer and are compelled to carry heavy crosses”.
He called them to live a “faith that does not remain abstract, but is embodied in communion with those in need,” he said.
Mass was Francis’ only major event on Wednesday before he returned to Rome after a four-day pilgrimage to Budapest, Hungary and Slovakia, a largely Catholic country of 5.5 million people.
The purely religious finale capped a visit that featured delicate state diplomacy – Francis met right-wing populist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on day one – and contacts with Slovakia’s Jewish and Roma communities.
The trip was Francis’ first since he had had bowel surgery to remove a 33-centimeter (13-inch) piece of his colon in July. He appeared in good shape and spirits throughout the grueling route, seemingly crowded-driven after being locked up in the Vatican for more than a year under COVID-19 restrictions.
Francis has at least two more trips planned before the end of the year: a quick trip to Glasgow, Scotland, to attend the United Nations climate conference in November, and a trip – not yet confirmed by the Vatican – in Greece, Cyprus and Malta. in December.
Karel Janicek reported from Prague. Philipp Jenne contributed to this report.