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Frail Pope urges Slovaks to cling to Christian faith

Looking frail at the start of a four-day visit to Slovakia, Pope John Paul II urged the country not to cast aside Christian traditions in exchange for economic advantage in a unified Europe.

The Holy Father had trouble delivering his short speech at a welcoming ceremony in Bratislava yesterday, and a Slovak priest had to be recruited quickly to read it for him.

The pope took over again for the last few lines, but his pronunciation was so slurred that his audience could not understand him.

Afterwards, the 83-year-old on the 102nd trip of his pontificate had to be lifted into his popemobile by aides and had trouble getting into his seat. The Slovakia visit is the last foreign trip scheduled for this year and the foreseeable future.

Despite his obvious infirmity, the pope wanted to go to Slovakia in part because the majority Catholic population professes a great love for him, and in part because the church is engaged in an important campaign to assert Christian values in the post-communist society.

Slovaks voted overwhelmingly to join the European Union in 2004, a step many believe will help the country's economy. But the pope warned that the expected economic boost could also bring "great poverty" unless family and human life values are protected.

"Dearly beloved, bring to the construction of Europe's new identity the contribution of your rich Christian tradition," he said. "Do not be satisfied with the sole quest for economic advantages. Great affluence in fact can also generate great poverty."

In a veiled reference to a recent legislative battle over abortion in Slovakia, the pope said the country needs to be "respectful of human life in all its expressions" as the country builds its future.

Catholic News Service

Pope's frailty causes concern on arrival in Slovakia (Catholic World News)
Slovakia's Christian idenity is Pope's primary theme (Catholic World News)
John Paul II in Slovakia, his 102nd foreign apostolic trip (Vatican Information Service)
Slovak officials report security threats (Catholic World News)
Pope begins visit to Slovakia (Independent Catholic News)
Pope Hoping for "Renewed Springtime" in Slovakia (Zenit)
Slovakian Cardinal on the Impact of John Paul II (Zenit)
The pope appeared short of breath and slurred his remarks (AP)
Fresh fears over pope's health (ITV)
Pontiff visit recalls cruelty in Slovakia (AP)
Pope Arrives in Slovakia for 4 Day Visit (AFP)
Frail Pope Falters in Address to Slovaks (Reuters)
Pontiff Begins Four-Day Trip to Slovakia (AP)
Pope appears frail, stumbles on words in Slovakia (AP)
Pope Hoping for "Renewed Springtime" in Slovakia (Zenit)

Slovakian Archbishop sees conspiracy against Church (8/9/03)
Holy Father to visit Slovakia next week (5/9/03)
Physical frailty limits Pope's travel schedule (Catholic World News)
'Morality pact' to boost Catholic influence in Slovakia (23/8/03)
Catholic Bishops Conference of Slovakia | Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of Slovakia for the Spiritual Preparation before the Third Visit of the Holy Father to Slovakia
Papal Visit to Slovakia (official website)
Apostolic Journey to Slovakia (Vatican Website)
Catholic Bishops Conference of Slovakia
Archbishop JŠn Sokol, Archbishop of Bratislava-Trnava (
Catholic Church in Slovakia (

12 Sep 2003