Pope Francis earlier this month reminded the faithful that religion should not be used for politics. He also warns Christians not to try to be someone who feels superior. This appears to be Pope Francis’ criticism of the use of religion for partisan purposes.
During his second visit to Slovakia on September 14, Pope Francis flew from the capital, Bratislava, to Presov, the eastern city, where he led the long mass known as the Divine Liturgy (Divine Liturgy). This is a Byzantine ritual used by the Eastern Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.
Pope Francis addressed his sermons on themes that revolved around Christian identity and the cross, saying they were often used superficially.
“The same is true of crosses, painted or carved in every corner of our churches. Crosses are found all around us: on our necks, in homes, in cars, in pockets. What good is this, unless we stop to look at Jesus crucified and open our hearts to Him, unless we allow ourselves to be exposed to the wounds He bore for us, unless our hearts swell with sorrow and we weep before God who is hurt because of His love for us,” he said. Pope Francis to about 30,000 congregants who attended the mass.
“If we don’t do that, the cross remains like an unread book whose title and author we know, without any impact on our lives,” he continued.
Pope Francis added that the cross should not be reduced in value to a political symbol and a marker of social status.
In Hungary, where Pope Francis made a brief stop a few days earlier, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has invoked religious sentiment in his nationalist and anti-immigrant politics. Orban says that the Christian heritage is in danger of being lost.
“Here, thank God, we don’t find people who persecute Christians, as in many other parts of the world. But our testimonies can be weakened by worldliness and mediocrity. The cross actually demands clear testimony. Because the cross is not a flag to wave, but a pure source of a new way of life. Which one? That’s the Bible, that’s the Beatitudes. The witness who bears not only the cross in his heart, and not just around his neck, sees no one as an enemy, but each as a brother or sister to whom Jesus gave his life,” Pope Francis said.
A number of political parties in Europe, including some extreme right groups, use the cross in their flags or party emblems.
In Slovakia, the far-right People’s Party-Our Slovakia says it stands on three pillars – Christian, national and social – and has vowed to block immigration of mostly Muslim refugees.
In Hungary, one of the Orban government’s allies, the small Christian Democratic People’s Party, uses the cross as their symbol. So is Mi Hazank, the Our Homeland Party, an extremist right -wing nationalist party, which uses the symbol of the Eastern Roman cross with two horizontal bars.
During the service in Slovakia, Pope Francis also warned Christians not to use their religion in so-called culture wars, which he believes undermine the common good. [uh/lt]