Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of Slovakia
for the Spiritual Preparation before the Third Visit of the Holy Father to Slovakia
 
Dear brothers and sisters,
we were meditating the Psalm of the today‚s Holy Mass which says that our Lord leads us as a shepherd leads his flock. We know that he leads his flock to green pastures and to still waters, that is an image of spiritual well-being given to us by Jesus. Pope is the visible representative of Jesus on earth. We are awaiting the third visit of the present Pope John Paul II to Slovakia. Fervent prayers for him will be our main spiritual activity, with which we want to welcome the Holy Father and to prepare ourselves for the meeting with him. John Paul II himself asks the faithful for these prayers on every occasion. As once, "earnest prayer - was made to God by the Church" (Acts 12:5) for Peter, we want to pray continuously for Peter of these times and to help him in his demanding and responsible role of the shepherd of God‚s people. We want to pray with him and with the whole Church for realization of God‚s plans with the mankind and with each one of us. We, Bishops of Slovakia, recommend that all prayers of individuals or communities, especially Rosary communities, would end with the prayer: "Keep, Lord, the Holy Father, the vicar of Christ!"
 
Let us concentrate the spiritual preparation on revival of our devotion to the Church. It is necessary for us to identify ourselves with the Church and to participate more actively in the life and mission which the Church realizes in the world. We all baptized are the Church, we, who proclaim one faith, who keep the same hope of our salvation and who put in practice the true and sincere love which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We all have to deepen our awareness of being the Church - God‚s family - community of brothers and sisters in Christ, but also a mystic body whose head is Christ and we baptized are its limbs. Bishops and priests, that is shepherds of the faithful and servants of God‚s grace, belong to the Church. They alone however are not the Church. The Church means shepherds with the faithful, and the faithful with their shepherds. The first sign of the unity of the Church is love for its shepherd: love of all for the supreme Shepherd, the Holy Father, and love for individual church communities for their bishops, chosen by the Holy Spirit to lead the flock of God.
 
To identify oneself with the Church means to realize it on different levels:
- level of individual faithful
- level of Christian family
- level of parish community
- level of particular Church -Diocese
 
The spiritual preparation for the visit of the Holy Father as a more perfect participation in the life and mission of the Church on different levels of the faithful can also have this concrete form: personal prayer as a meeting with God; life of sacraments - going to Confession and participate in Eucharist; participation in Sunday Holy Mass, or at least one more time during the workweek; daily reading of the Bible and meditating about it; acts of charity - help to our neighbors in need; voluntary acts of renunciation and little self-renunciations in the spirit of penance; true compliance of one's duties at work, in family - 
 
At the level of Christian family, the spiritual preparation can be realized in the sign of the truth that a Christian family is a little home Church. We recommend activities which can effectively deepen this awareness: common prayer in the family - the most suitable is the prayer of Rosary; common reading of the Bible; common participation in Liturgy; effort to foster family virtues, especially the one of mutual love, tolerance and forgiveness.
 
The Church is particularly present in the parish community. Parish is a place of spiritual home for the faithful, where they live more concretely and fully the awareness of God‚s family ö community of brothers and sisters. The renewal of the love for the Church present in the parish can be realized, in these days of the preparation for the visit of the Holy Father, by concrete spiritual activities; e.g. more frequent participation in Liturgy or active assistance during Liturgy; involving ourselves to apostolic work in the parish, to the charity; help with refit of the church; forming communities with other families; finally, we can realize ourselves by participation of families in the activities of the parish as cultural and sport events and so on.
 
At the level of diocese: the Church is present in the diocesan community. It is led by a bishop, the successor of Apostles, who is connected with the successor of Peter - the Pope. Every Holy Mass is celebrated in unity with our Pope John Paul II and with our diocesan bishop. Let us strengthen ourselves in this unity by devout celebration of Eucharist. In this way, we can prepare ourselves to welcome the Holy Father in Slovakia.
 
A good preparation of the faithful for the visit of the Holy Father will be especially the prayer of the Rosary. It was his initiative that we celebrate the Year of the Rosary. The Rosary is a prayer which got its name from the rose. Each of the ten Hail Marys is like a spiritual rose. We want to make a rich spiritual bouquet for the Holy Father out of these roses. Let us pray every day and live the mysteries of the Rosary and so we will not only honor in the best way the great host we are awaiting with joy, but we will unite ourselves with the Church. John Paul II will come to strengthen its faith, hope and charity.
 
These days especially require that we be united with the Church. Today, the Church is not criticized for some invented "power" or "imperialist" efforts like it was during the communist regime some years ago. Today, the Church is criticized for its fundamental mission: preaching of the Gospel and life in accord with it. Those people threaten the core, the substance of the Church. Let us remember the words of St. Cyprian: "It is not possible to have God as Father if you do not have the Church as mother."
 
Renovation of the relationship with the Church will be the best present for the Holy Father.
We will beg for you a lot of God‚s grace for this renovation.
 
Bishops of Slovakia