Pope Francis urged Slovaks to seek out those most in need as he completes four-day pilgrimage to the central European country
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 popemobile jaunt and a smiling Francis. and waving as he arrived at the vast field.
Organizers said 60,000 people attended the mass, the largest crowd of all the events of the pope’s four-day pilgrimage to Slovakia.
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 which does not remain abstract, but is embodied in communion with those who are in need”.
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.
Pilgrims had to show 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 dominant delta variant, new coronavirus cases have recently increased, reaching 760 on Tuesday, the highest figure since April. On Tuesday, four more people died from COVID-19 for a total of 12,566.
Slovakia has been hit hard by the virus and was the country with the most COVID-19 deaths per capita in the world as of mid-February.
The country now has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the EU, with just over 2 million people having been fully vaccinated.
The purely religious finale crowned a visit that included delicate state diplomacy. Francis met right-wing populist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on the first day and made representations to the Jewish and Roma communities in Slovakia.
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 spirit 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.