Castel Gandolfo
Sunday, 15 September 2002



Dear Brothers and Sisters,


1. The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross which we celebrated yesterday [Saturday] is followed by the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. Two liturgical celebrations that invite us to make a spiritual pilgrimage to Calvary. They encourage us to unite ourselves with the Virgin Mary in contemplating the mystery of the Cross.


Christianity has its principal symbol in the cross. Wherever the Gospel has put down roots, the cross is there to indicate the presence of Christians. In churches and homes, in hospitals and schools, in cemeteries - the cross has become better than any other, the sign of a culture that draws from the message of Christ truth and liberty, trust and hope.


In the process of secularization, that characterizes a great part of the contemporary world, it is all the more important for believers to fix their gaze on this central sign of Revelation and accept its original and genuine meaning.


2. Even today, following the teaching of the early Fathers, the Church presents the Cross to the world as "the tree of life", from which one can receive the ultimate and full meaning of every single existence and of the whole of human history.


From when Jesus made it the instrument of universal salvation, the Cross is no longer synonymous with a curse, but, on the contrary, with a blessing. For the human person, tormented by doubt and sin, it reveals that "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). In a word, the cross is the supreme symbol of love.


For this reason, young Christians carry it proudly through the streets of the world, entrusting to Christ all their worries and all their expectations of freedom, justice and peace.


John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and Italian.


To the English-speaking


3. Trusting in the loving care of Our Lady of Sorrows, whose feast we are celebrating today, I commend the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims to her maternal intercession. A special greeting goes to the people of the diocese of Cloyne, in Ireland, accompanied by their Bishop. Upon all of you, I invoke abundant divine blessings.


At the end, speaking in Italian, the Pope concluded his address with the Marian message.


4. At the foot of the Cross and perfectly united with her Son, the Virgin Mary was able to share in a singular way the depth of the pain and love of his sacrifice. No one better than she can teach us to love the cross. To Our Lady of Sorrows we entrust young people and families, nations and the whole of humanity. In a special way we invoke her for the sick and the suffering, for the innocent victims of injustice and violence, for Christians persecuted on account of their faith. May the glorious Cross of Christ be for all a pledge of hope, redemption and peace.






Bratislava, Esplanade of Petržalka
Sunday, 14 September 2003


1. O Crux, ave spes unicaHail, O Cross, our only hope!


During the celebration of this Sunday Liturgy, Dear Brothers and Sisters, we are invited to look upon the Cross.  It is the “privileged place” where the love of God is revealed and shown to us.  Bishop Vasil’ Hopko and Sister Zdenka Schelingová, whom I have had the joy of enrolling today among the Blessed, looked upon the Cross with invincible faith.


On the Cross human misery and divine mercy meet.  The adoration of this unlimited mercy is for man the only way to open himself to the mystery which the Cross reveals.


The Cross is planted in the earth and would seem to extend its roots in human malice, but it reaches up, pointing as it were to the heavens, pointing to the goodness of God. By means of the Cross of Christ, the Evil One has been defeated, death is overcome, life is given to us, hope is restored, light is imparted. O Crux, ave spes unica!


2. In the name of the crucified and risen Lord, I greet affectionately all of you gathered here on the esplanade of Petržalka.  I greet you, dear brother Bishop Ján Sokol, Pastor of this Church of Bratislava-Trnava, which today has given me so festive a welcome. I greet your Auxiliary Bishops and all the Bishops of Slovakia, especially the Venerable Cardinal Ján Chryzostom Korec.  I joyfully unite myself to your common thanksgiving for the tenth anniversary of the establishment of your Episcopal Conference.


I greet the Cardinals and the Bishops who have come from the neighbouring countries together with large numbers of the faithful.  Your fraternal presence eloquently manifests the bond of communion which unites the different local Churches.


I greet the President of the Republic and the other civil and military authorities. I thank you all for having generously cooperated in the preparation of every aspect of my apostolic visit.


Finally with warm affection I greet you, beloved Slovak people here present or listening by radio or television.  I thank God because you have been able to safeguard, even in difficult times, your fidelity to Christ and to his Church. And I exhort you: never be ashamed of the Gospel (cf. Romans 1:16)! Guard it in your heart as the most precious treasure, from which you may draw light and strength in the everyday pilgrimage of life.


3. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15), says Jesus. What do we see then when we bring our eyes to bear on the cross where Jesus was nailed (cf. John 19:37)? We contemplate the sign of God’s infinite love for humanity.


O Crux, ave spes unica! Saint Paul speaks of the same theme in the letter to the Ephesians which we have just heard. Not only did Christ Jesus become man, in everything similar to human beings, but he took on the condition of a servant and humbled himself even more by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (cf. Philippians 2:6-8). 


Yes, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16).  We admire – overwhelmed and gratified – the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge (cf. Ephesians 3:18-19)!  O Crux, ave spes unica!

4. Certainly, it was meditation on this great and wonderful mystery that sustained Blessed Bishop Vasil’ Hopko and Blessed Sister Zdenka Schelingová in their choice of the consecrated life and especially in the sufferings endured during their terrible imprisonment.


Both shine before us as radiant examples of faithfulness in times of harsh and ruthless religious persecution.  Bishop Vasil’ never repudiated his attachment to the Catholic Church and to the Pope. Sister Zdenka did not hesitate to risk her life so as to assist God’s ministers.


Both faced up to an unjust trial and an ignoble condemnation, to torture, humiliation, solitude, death.  And so the Cross became for them the way that led them to life, a source of fortitude and hope, a proof of love for God and man. O Crux, ave spes unica!


5. In the Garden of Eden, at the foot of the tree, there was a woman, Eve (cf. Genesis 3).  Seduced by the Evil One, she takes possession of what she thinks is divine life. Instead it is a seed of death which enters into her (cf. James 1:15; Romans 6:23).


On Calvary, at the foot of the tree of the cross, there was another woman, Mary (cf. John 19:25-27). Accepting God’s plan, she shares intimately in the Son’s gift of self to the Father for the life of the world and, receiving from Jesus the entrustment of John the Apostle, she becomes the Mother of all mankind.


It is the Virgin most Sorrowful, whom we will remember tomorrow in the liturgy and whom you, with tender devotion, venerate as your Patroness. To her I entrust the present and the future of the Church and Nation of Slovakia, so that they will grow at the foot of the Cross of Christ, and will always know how to seek out and accept its message of love and salvation.


Through the mystery of your Cross and your resurrection, save us O Lord!  Amen.






Bratislava, Esplanade of Petržalka
Sunday, 14 September 2003



1. At the conclusion of the celebration we wish once again to place ourselves spiritually at the foot of the Cross of Christ and receive from him the sublime gift of his Mother, who from that moment also became the Mother of the Church.


Like the Apostle John, we too welcome her into our home (cf. John 19:27), to learn from her the interior disposition of listening and that attitude of humble generosity in service, which characterise her as the first disciple of the Lord.


Together with the new Blesseds, let us ask Mary to intercede for us so as to obtain for the Christian community that lives in Slovakia the grace of being a Church rich in holiness, courageous in doing good and strong in witness.



I greet with affection the Hungarian-speaking faithful. May the Lord Jesus, who on the Cross gave his life for all, grant you abundance of grace and sustain you with the gifts of his Spirit. I impart to all of you my Blessing.



I extend to the German-speaking pilgrims, especially those from Austria, my affectionate greeting and my blessing. I wish you joy and peace in the Lord.



I greet those who have come from the Ukraine, with memories of my apostolic visit to that beautiful country.  I wish you the peace of God which surpasses all understanding (cf. Philippians 4:7). I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.



I greet the faithful from the Czech Republic and as I entrust you to the intercession of Saints Cyril and Methodius venerated at Velehrad, I assure you of a remembrance in my prayers and my affectionate Blessing.



On the day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, let us commemorate with especial intensity the love of Christ who died for the salvation of the world.  May the experience of this love be with us always.  I bless you with all my heart.



To the Italians here present, I send my greetings and my blessing.  May the Virgin Mary guide you in your encounter with Jesus and help you experience the joy and the fruitfulness of his friendship.



Tomorrow, we will celebrate Our Lady of Sorrows, Patroness of your Land.  Let us turn towards her confidently as we pray together:  Angelus Domini




After the Angelus:


Before departing from you I wish to renew to all of you my heartfelt gratitude: to the Christian community of Slovakia and to its Pastors, to the President of the Republic and to the civil and military authorities, to the security personnel and to the press corps. To all those who in various ways have contributed to the success of my apostolic journey, I say with all my heart: "thank you!" I carry with me beautiful images of the Eucharistic Celebrations and the different encounters of these days. They are memories that evoke in my spirit profound and comforting emotions.


I wish to send from this esplanade a special greeting, full of affection, to the young people of Slovakia. Dear young friends, you are the hope of the Church and of society; you are the hope of the Pope! Do not be afraid to become true friends of Jesus. Learn from him how to love this world properly and you will build with his help the civilization of love.


I leave you all with the assurance of my thought and my prayers. And my recommendation: keep on being faithful to Christ and to his Church!


Thank you Slovakia! May Almighty God bless you and keep you in his love.



Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Saint Pope John Paul II, so that they could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us. 




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