Pope Francis in Slovakia: Religions must unite

Photo: EPA Slovak President Zuzana Caputova (R) welcomes Pope Francis at the Presidential Palace in Bratislava, 13 September 2021.

On the first stop of his Apostolic Journey to Slovakia, Pope Francis urges an ecumenical gathering to resist the temptation of interior slavery with the twin forces of contemplation and action, Vatican news reported. Pope Francis kicked off a three-day visit to Slovakia on Sunday afternoon by meeting with the country’s Ecumenical Council of Churches. In his speech, the Pope expressed his appreciation for the chance to become “a pilgrim in Slovakia”, and said he was pleased that his first meeting in the EU member nation had an ecumenical nature.

“It is a sign,” he added, “that the Christian faith is – and desires to be – a seed of unity and leaven of fraternity in this country.”

Pope Francis recalled the many years of atheistic persecution under the Soviet Union, “when religious freedom was stifled or harshly repressed.” After the fall of the Iron Curtain freedom returned, he said. “Now you are sharing a similar experience of growth in which you are coming to discover how beautiful, but also how difficult it is to live your faith in freedom.”

The Pope then warned Slovakians against the temptation to return to a worse slavery: “an interior bondage”. He made reference to Dostoevsky’s “Legend of the Grand Inquisitor” in The Brothers Karamazov, in which Jesus returns to earth and is once again imprisoned.

The inquisitor who questions Jesus accuses Him of overestimating human freedom, saying people prefer to barter their freedom for “a more comfortable slavery”.

Pope Francis appealed to Christians not to fall into this same trap of trading freedom for “bread and little else”, meaning “spaces and privileges.”


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