Pope Francis says "May the gift of God be present on everyone's tables because, while we are not yet able to share the same Eucharistic table, we can host Jesus together by serving him in the poor." FULL TEXT


(12-15 SEPTEMBER 2021)



Apostolic Nunciature (Bratislava)
Sunday, 12 September 2021


Dear Members of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Slovak Republic ,

I cordially greet you and thank you for having accepted the invitation and coming to meet me: I, a pilgrim in Slovakia, you welcome guests in the Nunciature! I am happy that the first meeting is with you: it is a sign that the Christian faith is - and wants to be - in this country the seed of unity and leaven of fraternity. Thank you Beatitude, Brother Rastislav, for your presence; thank you, dear Bishop Ivan, President of the Ecumenical Council, for the words he addressed to me and which testify to the commitment of wanting to continue walking together to pass from conflict to communion.

The journey of your communities resumed after the years of atheist persecution, when religious freedom was impeded or severely tested. Then, finally, it arrived.  

 And now you have in common a stretch of the path in which you experience how beautiful it is, but at the same time difficult, to live the faith as free. There is in fact the temptation to return to slavery, certainly not to a regime, but to an even worse slavery, the inner one.

This is what Dostoevsky warned against in a famous tale, the Legend of the Grand Inquisitor . Jesus has returned to Earth and is imprisoned. The inquisitor addresses lashing words: the accusation that moves him is precisely that of having given too much importance to the freedom of men. He tells him: "You want to go into the world and you go there empty-handed, with the promise of a freedom that they, in their simplicity and in their innate disorder, cannot even conceive, of which they are afraid and terrified, because nothing is ever more intolerable state of freedom for man! " The Karamazov Brothers, Milan 2012, p. 338). And he adds to the dose, adding that men are willing to willingly trade their freedom for a more comfortable slavery, that of subjecting themselves to someone who decides for them, in order to have bread and securities. And so he comes to reproach Jesus for not wanting to become Caesar in order to bend the conscience of men and establish peace by force. Instead, he continued to prefer freedom for man, while humanity claims "bread and little else".

Dear Brothers, this does not happen to us; let us help ourselves not to fall into the trap of being satisfied with bread and little else. Because this risk occurs when the situation is normalized, when we have stabilized and we settle down with the aim of maintaining a quiet life. So, what we are aiming for is no longer "the freedom we have in Christ Jesus" ( Gal 2: 4), his truth that sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32), but to obtain space and privileges. Which, according to the Gospel, is "bread and little else". Here, from the heart of Europe, one wonders: have we Christians lost a little the ardor of the announcement and the prophecy of witness? It is the truth of the gospel that sets us free or we feel free when we gain comfort zone that allow us to manage ourselves and to go on calmly without particular repercussions? And again, contenting ourselves with bread and securities, we have perhaps lost the impetus in the search for the unity Jesus implored, a unity that certainly requires the mature freedom of strong choices, renunciations and sacrifices, but it is the premise for the world to believe ( cf.Jn 17 , 21)? Let us not be concerned only with how much it can benefit our individual communities. The freedom of the brother and sister is also our freedom, because our freedom is not complete without him and her.

Here evangelization arose in a fraternal way, bearing the seal of the holy brothers of Thessalonica Cyril and Methodius. May they, witnesses of a Christianity still united and on fire by the ardor of the announcement, help us to continue on the journey by cultivating fraternal communion among us in the name of Jesus. On the other hand, how can we hope for a Europe that rediscovers its roots Christian if we are the first to be uprooted from full communion? How can we dream of a Europe free from ideologies, if we do not have the courage to put the freedom of Jesus before the needs of individual groups of believers? It is difficult to demand a Europe more fruitful by the Gospel without worrying about the fact that we are not yet fully united with each other on the continent and without caring for one another. Convenience calculations, historical reasons and political ties cannot be immovable obstacles on our path. May Saints Cyril and Methodius, "precursors of ecumenism" (St. John Paul II, Encyclical Lett.Slavorum Apostoli , 14), to strive for a reconciliation of diversities in the Holy Spirit; for a unity which, without being uniformity, is a sign and testimony of the freedom of Christ, the Lord who loosens the bonds of the past and heals us from fears and shyness.

In their time, Cyril and Methodius allowed the divine Word to be incarnated in these lands (cf. Jn 1:14). I would like to share with you two suggestions in this perspective, fraternal advice for spreading the Gospel of freedom and unity today. The first tip, the first tip is about contemplationA distinctive feature of the Slavic peoples, which it is up to you to keep together, is the contemplative trait, which goes beyond philosophical and even theological conceptualizations, starting from an experiential faith, which knows how to welcome the mystery. Help each other to cultivate this spiritual tradition, which Europe so badly needs: the ecclesial West in particular thirsts for it, to rediscover the beauty of the adoration of God and the importance of not conceiving the community of faith primarily on the basis of a programmatic and functional efficiency.

The second piece of advice concerns action . Unity is not achieved so much by good intentions and by adhering to some common value, but by doing something together for those who bring us closest to the Lord. Who I am? They are the poor, because in them Jesus is present (cf. Mt25.40). Sharing charity opens wider horizons and helps to walk faster, overcoming prejudices and misunderstandings. And it is also a trait that finds genuine acceptance in this country, where at school a poem is learned by heart, which contains, among others, a very beautiful passage: "When a foreign hand knocks on our door with sincere trust : whoever he is, whether he comes from near or far, day or night, God's gift will be waiting on our table "(Samo Chalupka, Mor ho!, 1864). May the gift of God be present on everyone's tables because, while we are not yet able to share the same Eucharistic table, we can host Jesus together by serving him in the poor. It will be a more evocative sign than many words, which will help civil society to understand, especially in this difficult period, that only by being on the side of the weakest will we really all come out of the pandemic together.

Dear brothers, I thank you for your presence and for your journey: the mild and welcoming character, typical of the Slovak people, the traditional peaceful coexistence between you and your collaboration for the good of the country are precious for the leaven of the Gospel. I encourage you to go forward on the ecumenical journey, a precious and indispensable treasure. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and I ask you, please, to pray for me. Thanks.

FULL TEXT Source: Vatican.va Unofficial Translation - Screenshot from source