By Lydia O’Kane, Prešov – Košice
This was the part of the Pope’s Apostolic Journey to Slovakia when he travelled from the West to encounter the East.
The first event on Tuesday’s programme was the celebration of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, seen here as a historic moment and a sign of unity.
People had been arriving at the municipal sports hall here in Prešov since early morning to get a good vantage point; many wearing yellow scarves with an image of Pope Francis imprinted on them.
Up to 900 volunteers were also on hand to make sure this event went as smoothly as possible.
Husband and wife Richard and Maria had brought their three children, and Maria told Vatican Radio that she wanted to bring them here today because she still remembers with joy the visit of St John Paul II to Slovakia.
Carnival mood greets the Pope
Next, it was on to another important highlight of the day, a visit to the Lunik IX district of Košice to meet with the Roma community. This was a Pope, who over the course of his Pontificate has continued to highlight those on the peripheries of society, coming to meet with a community who live daily without basic services such as, running water, gas and electricity.
A carnival atmosphere greeted Pope Francis as he literally walked a red carpet onto a specially constructed stage for the event.
Everyone present was treated to traditional music, song and dance; even the priests could be seen tapping their feet to the infectious tunes.
After greeting a Roma family, Pope Francis told the community at Lunik IX that they are “not on the margins… You are in the heart of the Church,” he said.
Love, the greatest dream in life
Last, but no means least, the Pope travelled to Lokomotiva Stadium in Košice where the festive atmosphere continued, as he made his way through the sea of young people on board the fondly named “Popemobile.”
After hearing testimonies from a number of young people, Pope Francis told the thousands gathered here that, “Love is our greatest dream in life,… And when you dream of love, don’t go looking for special effects, but realize that each of you is special. Every one of us is a gift and we can make our lives a gift.”
This visit to Slovakia will end on Wednesday on a high note when the Pope, and the faithful of Slovakia celebrate their patron, Our Lady Mother of Sorrows at Šaštín.