Pope Francis said that “this long history challenges Slovakia to be a message of peace in the heart of Europe.”
He again recalled the example of the ninth-century saints Cyril and Methodius, who brought the Christian faith to the Slavs, explaining that the brothers “showed that preserving what is good does not mean repeating the past, but being open to newness without ever losing one’s roots.”
“Your history abounds in writers, poets and men and women of culture who were the salt of the country. Just as salt burns when placed on wounds, so their lives often had to pass through the crucible of suffering,” the pope said.
“How many illustrious men and women endured imprisonment, yet remained interiorly free, offering a radiant example of courage, integrity, and resistance to injustice! And most of all, forgiveness. That is the salt of your earth.”
As Slovakia looks forward to a better economic period after the COVID-19 pandemic with the help of European Union recovery plans, the pope urged the authorities to not succumb to impatience and the “lure of profit.”
Economic recovery itself is not sufficient, he said. “Even as battles for supremacy are waged on various fronts, may this country reaffirm its message of integration and peace. And may Europe be distinguished by a solidarity that, by transcending borders, can bring it back to the center of history.”
The pope concluded his speech with a reflection on Slavic hospitality and the custom of giving guests bread and salt.
“Bread is something essential. Scripture commands us not to hoard our bread, but to share it. The bread spoken of in the Gospel is always bread that is broken. This sends a powerful message for our life as a community: it reminds us that true wealth does not consist simply in multiplying the things we have, but in sharing them fairly with those around us,” he said.
He urged the authorities to build a society in which laws are applied fairly, the rule of law promoted, and corruption fought.
The pope also noted the importance of everyone having dignified employment, “so that none will feel marginalized or constrained to leave family and homeland in search of a better life.”
Using the imagery of salt and the flavor it gives to food, Francis said that society needed “the flavor of solidarity.”
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“Just as salt gives flavor only by dissolving, so too society rediscovers its flavor through the gratuitous generosity of those who spend their lives for others,” he said.
Pope Francis closed by saying: “God bless you. God bless this land,” adding “Nech Boh žehná Slovensko!” (“God bless Slovakia”).
Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.