Pope: in Europe, God's presence is being watered down by consumerism and unitary way of thinking

At the general audience, Francis retraces the stages of the trip to Budapest and Slovakia, "a pilgrimage of prayer, a pilgrimage to the roots, a pilgrimage of hope." Roots "not as museum exhibits, not ideologized and instrumentalized for interests of prestige and power, to consolidate a closed identity. No." "Violence against women is an open sore. It’s everywhere."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "A pilgrimage of prayer, a pilgrimage to the roots, a pilgrimage of hope" in the heart of a Europe where "the presence of God is watered down in consumerism, we see it every day, and in the 'vapors' of a unitary way of thinking fruit of the mixture of old and new ideologies." This is how Pope Francis summarized the trip to Budapest and Slovakia that ended last Wednesday at this week’s general audience.

To the 8,000 people present in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Francis proposed the stages of the journey that began in Budapest on September 12 for the conclusion of the International Eucharistic Congress. There was lively participation in this celebration. The holy people of God, on the Lord's Day, gathered before the mystery of the Eucharist, by which they are continually generated and regenerated. They were embraced by the Cross that stood above the altar, showing the same direction indicated by the Eucharist, namely the path of humble and selfless love, of generous and respectful love towards all, of faith that purifies from worldliness and leads to essentiality. This faith always purifies us and turns us away from worldliness that ruins us, it is a woodworm."

" And the pilgrimage of prayer concluded in Slovakia on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. There too, in Šaštín, at the Shrine of the Virgin of the Seven Sorrows, the Feast of the Mother, which is also the national religious feast day, was attended by a great number of her children. Mine was thus a pilgrimage of prayer in the heart of Europe, beginning with adoration and ending with popular piety. Because this is what the People of God are called to, above all: to worship, to pray, to journey, to wander, to do penance, and in this to feel the peace and the joy that the Lord gives us. And this is of particular importance on the European continent, where the presence of God is being diluted by consumerism and in the “vapours” of a unitary way of thinking that is the fruit of the mixture of old and new ideologies. In this context too, the healing answer comes from prayer, witness and humble love. This is what I saw in the encounter with the holy people of God: a faithful people, that has suffered atheist persecution. I also saw it in the faces of our Jewish brothers and sisters, with whom we remembered the Holocaust. Because there is no prayer without remembrance."

" Second aspect: this journey was a pilgrimage to the roots. In meeting my brother bishops, both in Budapest and in Bratislava, I was able to encounter directly the grateful remembrance of these roots of faith and of Christian life, vivid in the shining example of witnesses of faith such as Cardinals Mindszenty and Korec, and the Blessed Bishop Pavel Peter Gojdič. Roots that reach as far back as the ninth century, back to the evangelizing work of the saints brothers Cyril and Methodius, who accompanied this journey with their constant presence. I perceived the strength of these roots in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine rite, in Prešov, in the feast of the Holy Cross. In the hymns I felt the tremor of the heart of the holy people of God, forged by their many sufferings for the faith. On several occasions I insisted on the fact that these roots are always living, full of the vital lymph that is the Holy Spirit, and that as such must be conserved: not like museum exhibits, not ideologized and exploited out of interests of prestige and power, to consolidate a closed identity. No. This would mean betraying them and making them barren!  For us, Cyril and Methodius are not personages to be commemorated, but rather models to imitate, masters from whom we can always learn the spirit and method of evangelization, as well as civil commitment - during this journey to the heart of Europe I often thought of the fathers of the European Union. ."

"One of the Slovakian bishops said to me when he greeted me - he is already an old man - "I was a streetcar conductor to hide from the Communists". He's good, this one: in the dictatorship, in the persecution, this bishop was a streetcar conductor. Then, in secret, he did his job as a bishop and nobody knew it. This is persecution, being in persecution ... Remember: there is no prayer without memory. Prayer, the memory of one's own life, of the life of one's people, of history ... Making memory. Remembering. This is good for you and helps you to pray."

" And here is the third aspect of this journey: it was a pilgrimage of hope. I saw great hope in the eyes of the young, in the unforgettable encounter in the stadium in Košice. Especially in the time of the pandemic, this moment of celebration was a powerful and encouraging sign, also thanks to the presence of many young couples with their children. Equally strong and prophetic is the witness of Blessed Anna Kolesárová, a Slovak girl who at the cost of her life defended her dignity against violence: a testimony that is unfortunately more relevant than ever, as violence towards women remains an open wound. Everywhere".

"I have seen - he said again - I saw hope in many people who silently care for and are concerned about their neighbour. I think of the Missionary Sisters of Charity of the Bethlehem Centre in Bratislava, who give shelter to the homeless. I think of the Roma community and all those who work with them on a path of fraternity and inclusion. It was moving to share in the feast of the Roma community: a simple feast with the perfume of the Gospel. The Roma are our brothers, we must welcome them".

"This hope - he stressed - can only be realised and made concrete if it is expressed in another word: together. In Budapest and Slovakia we found ourselves together with the different rites of the Catholic Church, together with our brothers and sisters of other Christian denominations, together with our Jewish brothers and sisters, together with the believers of other religions, together with the weakest. This is the way, because the future will be one of hope if we are together."