DAILY CATHOLIC    TUESDAY     September 21, 1999     vol. 10, no. 179

NEWS & VIEWS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

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POPE ATTRACTS 15% OF SLOVENIA'S POPULATION

Denounces Exaggerated Nationalism and Profit-Oriented Europe

        MARIBOR, SEP 19 (ZENIT).- Enough of wars and common graves among Europeans, was John Paul II's cry during his lightning visit to Slovenia today. The Holy Father attracted 15% of the country's population to Maribor, for the first Slovenian beatification -- that of Bishop Anton Martin Slomsek of this city, who died in 1862, and is a key figure in the young country's history.

    An Extremely Timely Message

        In the last century, and anticipating his contemporaries, Bishop Slomsek defended the idea of a multi-ethnic, peaceful Europe. Today, after the end of the Balkan conflict, the 88th international pastoral trip of John Paul II's pontificate has helped rediscover these values, so important for predominantly Catholic Slovenia, situated at the crossroads of the European East and West.

        Shortly after 8:30 a.m. this morning, the Pope's plane left Rome's Fiumicino airport and arrived after an hour and a half in Maribor, the second largest city of Slovenia, and the economic and cultural capital of the Slovenian south. After the welcoming ceremony, attended by President Milan Kucan, who has been the political leader of this Alpine nation of 2 million inhabitants since its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, the Pope went to the Betnava square, where the beatification ceremony took place.

        In addition to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, the Mass was concelebrated by some 60 Bishops representing virtually all the Eastern Churches. About 250,000 pilgrims were present from all the Slovenian dioceses, as well as several neighboring nations.

        During the homily, the Pope evoked the example of the newly beatified Bishop Slomsek, who was committed to the unity of Christians, the promotion of educational institutions and love for his country. An example from which Europe must draw lessons to insure a future free from conflicts and violence, the Holy Father said, repeating the same words he spoke in this country three years ago: "Sanctity is the only force than can change the world."

    Prophet of Ecumenism

        Bishop Slomsek, not only "became a good Samaritan to the Slovenian people," but he also paid special attention to "the formation of the clergy and faithful of the country." In addition, "he demonstrated profound openness to ecumenism, and was one of the first to commit himself to the unity of Christians in Central Europe."

        "May his desire for unity stimulate the ecumenical commitment, so that the Christians of the Europe he so loved will cross the threshold of hope, if not completely united, at least much closer, in order to overcome the divisions of the second millennium," the Pope added.

    Model of Patriotism

        Finally, John Paul II proposed Bishop Slomsek as "a genuine model of patriotism." "Looking at the beloved Balkans region, marked over these years by conflicts and violence, by extreme nationalism, ferocious ethnic cleansing, and wars among peoples and cultures, I would like to give everyone the testimony of the new Blessed. He proves that it is possible to be sincere patriots and, with this same sincerity, to live together and collaborate with people of another nationality, culture and religion. May his example, and above all his intercession, obtain genuine solidarity and peace for all the peoples of this region of Europe," the Holy Father exclaimed.

    New Europe

        I invite young people especially to become the builders of peace in Europe. "The unification process to which the Continent is committed, cannot be based solely on economic interests," -- the Pope repeated again in this country that is seeking to become a member of the European Union -- "but must be inspired on those Christian values that deeply penetrate its old authentic roots. A Europe that cares for man and fully respects his rights. This is the goal toward which efforts must be directed! May the old Europe be capable of transmitting the flame of human and Christian civilization to the new generations," the Pope said.

    No More Common Graves

        During the "Angelus," at the end of the celebration, the Pontiff remembered the victims of wars and totalitarian regimes. He greeted the pilgrims from other countries, remembering in particular all those who were killed in the mass graves recently discovered near Maribor. "May such incidents never happen again!" he exclaimed in Croatian.

        After lunching with the Bishops, John Paul II visited the 13th century Maribor Cathedral, where he prayed before Blessed Slomsek's tomb. During his discourse in the Cathedral, he made a summary of the challenges facing the Church in Slovenia at this time as it prepares for its national Synod, the Bishop of Rome left for the Maribor airport, to bid farewell to the principal civil and religious authorities and the people. ZE99091909


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September 21, 1999       volume 10, no. 179
NEWS & VIEWS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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