Czech Republic Has Message of Freedom, Says Pope

Reflects on Hope, Truth During 1st Days of Trip

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PRAGUE, Czech Republic, SEPT. 27, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says he is in the Czech Republic with the conviction that the former communist nation has a message for the world about freedom.

The Pope spoke about goals for his three-day trip to Prague and Brno when he gave a press conference aboard the papal plane Saturday.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, pointed out that the Holy Father's trip comes 20 years after the fall of communism.

The Pope affirmed that precisely with the suffering of the post-communist nations, "concepts of freedom" developed that are pertinent for today and "must now be further elaborated and realized."

Citing a text from Vaclav Havel, the Holy Father explained the connection between truth and freedom, "where freedom is not libertinism, arbitrariness, but is connected to and conditioned by the great values of truth and love and solidarity and the good in general."

"Thus," he added, "I think that these concepts, these ideas that matured under the dictatorship, must not be lost: Now we must return to them!"

Day 1

The Pontiff arrived in Prague on Saturday morning, giving an address at a welcoming ceremony at the airport, and losing no time in encouraging Catholics of the Republic.

After paying tribute to Christians who suffered under communism, the Holy Father said: "Now that religious freedom has been restored, I call upon all the citizens of this Republic to rediscover the Christian traditions which have shaped their culture, and I invite the Christian community to continue to make its voice heard as the nation addresses the challenges of the new millennium."

The first stop for the Bishop of Rome was a visit to the Infant Jesus of Prague.

Benedict XVI took the occasion to reflect on the dignity of children. And he addressed a special message to them: "You are greatly loved by the Child Jesus, and you should return his love by following his example: Be obedient, good and kind. Learn to be, like him, a source of joy to your parents. Be true friends of Jesus, and always turn to him in trust. Pray to him for yourselves, for your parents, relations, teachers and friends, and pray also for me."

The Pope's day wrapped up with two more discourses: one to the civil authorities and diplomatic corps of his host nation, another to religious, priests and seminarians during the praying of vespers at the cathedral.

Day 2

This morning, the Holy Father traveled to Brno where he celebrated an open-air Mass attended by some 150,000 people.

Father Lombardi said it was the largest turnout for a Mass in the history of the Czech Republic.

The Holy Father's message turned on the theme of hope.

"Your country," he said, "like other nations, is experiencing cultural conditions that often present a radical challenge to faith and therefore also to hope. In fact, in the modern age both faith and hope have undergone a 'shift,' because they have been relegated to the private and other-worldly sphere, while in day-to-day public life confidence in scientific and economic progress has been affirmed. 

"We all know that this progress is ambiguous: It opens up possibilities for good as well as evil. Technical developments and the improvement of social structures are important and certainly necessary, but they are not enough to guarantee the moral welfare of society. Man needs to be liberated from material oppressions, but more profoundly, he must be saved from the evils that afflict the spirit. 

"And who can save him if not God, who is Love and has revealed his face as almighty and merciful Father in Jesus Christ? Our firm hope is therefore Christ: In him, God has loved us to the utmost and has given us life in abundance, the life that every person, even if unknowingly, longs to possess."

After praying the midday Angelus with the faithful, the Pontiff returned to Prague for two more discourses: one to an ecumenical gathering and another to representatives of the world of education.

The Pope on Monday will celebrate the liturgical memorial of St. Wenceslaus, patron of the Czech Republic, before his return to Rome in the evening.