WelCom October 2021
Christianity is a relic that no longer speaks to many people nor affects the way they live their lives, Pope Francis said during his four-day pastoral visit to Slovakia, in Central Europe, September 12–15, 2021. It was the fourth papal visit to that country and the first by a pope in 18 years.
Pope Francis made the comments to Catholic Church clergy and lay leaders in St Martin’s Cathedral, Bratislava. Christianity is the predominant religion in Slovakia and more than 60 per cent of the population are Catholic.
‘The centre of the Church is not the Church itself’, the Pope said encouraging the leaders to avoid ‘self-absorption’ and attempts to ‘make ourselves look good’.
Francis urged the leaders to foster dialogue with both believers and those who do not believe.
‘How great is the beauty of a humble Church, a Church that does not stand aloof from the world, viewing life with a detached gaze, but lives her life within the world,’ he said.
‘Living within the world, let us not forget: sharing, walking together, welcoming people’s questions and expectations. This will help us to escape from our self-absorption, for the centre of the Church…is not the Church.’
Warning against becoming nostalgic for the past or defending Church structures, Francis said, ‘We have to leave behind undue concern for ourselves, for our structures and for what society thinks about us’.
Pope Francis said the Church throughout Europe must face the challenges in front of it and find ‘new languages for handing on the Gospel’, asking, ‘Isn’t this perhaps the most urgent task facing the Church?’
He went on to praise a Church that leaves room ‘for the adventure of freedom’, rather than ‘becoming rigid and self-enclosed’.
‘A Church that has no room for the adventure of freedom, even in the spiritual life, risks becoming rigid and self-enclosed. Some people may be used to this.
‘But many others – especially the younger generations – are not attracted by a faith that leaves them no interior freedom, by a Church in which all are supposed to think alike and blindly obey.’
During his visit, the Pope went out of his way to embrace the most excluded members of society, visiting a homeless shelter and the impoverished Roma minority in Slovakia’s far east.
His trip also included a brief stop-over in Budapest where he closed the 52nd Eucharistic Congress.
Sources: Catholic News Agency, La Croix