Pope in Slovakia says not to exploit religion for politics



PRESOV, Slovakia, September 14 (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Tuesday that the cross should not be used as a political symbol and warned against Christians trying to be triumphant, in an apparent criticism of the use of religion for partisan purposes.

Francis flew to the town of Presov, in eastern Slovakia, where he presided over a long service known as the Divine Liturgy, a Byzantine rite used by the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches.

The Pope framed his homily around the theme of Christian identity, claiming that crosses and crucifixes are often used superficially by Christians.

Speaking to around 30,000 worshipers, he said many Christians had crucifixes or crosses around their necks, on the walls of their homes, in their cars and in their pockets, but had no real relationship with Jesus. .

“What good is it, unless we stop to look at Jesus crucified and open our hearts to him,” he said. “Let us not reduce the cross to an object of devotion, let alone a political symbol, a sign of religious and social status.”

In 1950, in Presov, the Communist authorities forced the Eastern Rite Catholics, who owed their allegiance to the Pope, to join the Orthodox Church. A number of Eastern Rite clergymen who refused were imprisoned.


In Hungary, where the Pope briefly stopped on Sunday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban appealed to religious sentiment in his anti-immigrant and nationalist policies, saying Hungary’s Christian heritage was in danger of being lost.

After his meeting with the Pope on Sunday, Orban said he asked the pontiff “not to let Christian Hungary perish”. The Pope said in Hungary that the country could preserve its Christian roots while opening up to the needy. Read more

During Tuesday’s liturgy, Francis also appeared again to warn Christians against using their religion in so-called culture wars which he says harm the common good.

“How many times do we envy a victorious Christianity, a triumphalist Christianity that is important and influential,

who receives glory and honor? ”he said.

In Slovakia, the far-right Kotlebovci-People’s Our Slovakia party says it rests on three pillars – Christian, national and social – and is committed to preventing the immigration of mostly Muslim refugees.

“The cross is not a flag to be waved, but the pure source of a new way of life,” Francis said, adding that a true believer “does not regard anyone as an enemy, but everyone as a brother or sister. sister”.

A number of political parties in Europe, including several far-right parties in the east, use crosses on their party flags or symbols.

In Hungary, one of Orban’s government allies, the small Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP), uses a cross on its symbol. The far-right nationalist party Our Homeland (Mi Hazank) uses the Byzantine cross, which has two horizontal beams.

The Pope then traveled to one of Slovakia’s poorest communities, a colony of Roma, where he condemned prejudice and discrimination against them, saying it was wrong to classify entire ethnic groups. Read more

He then organized a rally with young Slovak Catholics attended by around 20,000 people at a stadium in Kosice before his return to Bratislava. He returns to Rome on Wednesday.

Additional reporting by Robert Muller in Kosice and Gergely Szakac in Budapest; Editing by Alex Richardson

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