VATICAN CITY, APR 25, 1997 (VIS) - Pope John Paul II arrived late this afternoon in Prague, the Czech Republic, for the start of his 76th pastoral trip outside of Italy and his second to the Czech Republic. His previous visit was in 1995. In 1990 he had visited Czechoslovakia before it separated into two republics.

The Pope reminded the civil and religious authorities present to greet him at the Prague-Ruzyne Airport that the reason for his trip was twofold: "to celebrate on Sunday the solemnity of St. Adalbert and, on that occasion, to meditate on the message that emerges from the decade of spiritual renewal," in preparation for this millennium solemnity.

"I am certain," he said, speaking Czech, "that the heritage of Christian values of which St. Adalbert was a special witness, in times marked by ignorance and cruelty, will not leave indifferent those who, although far from belief, have at heart the civil, cultural and spiritual roots which have so profoundly marked the history of your homeland."

Following the welcoming ceremony, the Holy Father went to the Benedictine monastery at Brevnov, founded 1,004 years ago by St. Adalbert, to entrust the success of his "pilgrim journey." He then went to the apostolic nunciature in Prague where he met with and addressed members of the Czech Bishops' Conference.

The Pope first highlighted St. Adalbert's "life as a bishop consumed with zeal for his flock," and his "virtues as a monk." He added that Adalbert "is a model for us" who "faced enormously serious challenges," and pointed out that "the challenges lying before you today, dear bishops, are no less demanding."

John Paul II said that religious indifference and hedonism are among the challenges facing them after "forty years of systematic repression of the Church." The effects of those years of "intimidation of individuals and families ... can be particularly seen in the area of family morality" where "nearly half of the marriages end in divorce or separation" and the practice of abortion has led to "a considerable decrease in the birth rate."

Hedonism has "contributed to a growing crisis of values in everyday life" and to the spread of such practices as "pornography, prostitution and pedophilia, ... symptomatic of grave social malaise."

He stressed that "the family must be at the center of your concerns as pastors," saying it is both "the terrain best adapted for fostering vocations" and "critical for the training of young people." He expressed appreciation for their concern for youth, adding: "Even in the period of repression, a highly- organized network of activities led by courageous priests, existed for the training of young men and women."

The Holy Father urged the bishops to be close to and to love the "priests who are your first fellow-workers." He said he knows they are "burdened by immense pastoral work" and that "many have suffered in state prisons."

Pope John Paul then turned to "the problems which still exist in the relations, otherwise cordial and open, between the Church and competent state authorities." Among these, he observed, are the questions of "the restitution of goods confiscated arbitrarily during the dark years of persecution" and "the teaching of religion in state schools."

The Pope suggested that, "on the basis of experience gained in similar cases in other countries," a "mixed commission made up of expert representatives of the state and the Church" be set up in order to establish "a precise and long- range plan of action."

"If the Church asks for these goods," the Pope said in reference to confiscated property, "she does so because they enable her to meet the inalienable requirements of his mission," including "pastoral assistance in hospitals and prisons and ... spiritual assistance to the military."

Concluding his remarks to the bishops, John Paul II said: "After the long years of persecution ... we can say once more that 'the night is far gone, the day is at hand'."

av Webmaster publisert 31.03.2006, sist endret 10.03.2011 - 02:40