John Paul II Will Beatify 2 Martyrs in Slovakia

September Visit Confirmed

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican press office confirmed officially that John Paul II will travel to Slovakia, his 102nd international trip, from Sept. 11-14.



ZENIT was told that during this apostolic visit, the Pope will beatify a bishop and a nun, both martyred under the Communist regime.

During his trip the Holy Father will visit four cities, Trnava, Banska Bystrica, Roznava and Bratislava, according to Father Ciro Benedettini, the assistant director of the press office.

One of the two martyrs, Bishop Basil Hopko (1904-1976), belonged to the Greek-Catholic Church of Slovakia.

"With the advent of Communism, his Eastern Church was suppressed and he was arrested," said Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, during the ceremony July 7 when the decree recognizing the bishop's martyrdom was promulgated.

"With false accusations, he was condemned to 15 years in prison, which he was unable to complete due to poor health conditions," the cardinal said. "In fact, the bad physical and psychic treatment had destroyed him. His death was the result of his sufferings for the faith before and after his imprisonment."

Also to be beatified is Sister Zdenka Schelingova (1916-1955), of the Congregation of Sisters of Charity of the Holy Cross.

"She was a model religious and nurse," Cardinal Saraiva Martins said. "She carried out her activity in the state hospital of Bratislava, where she crowned her consecration to God with a heroic gesture in favor of a sick priest, who was arrested in the same hospital.

"After praying with these words: 'Jesus I offer my life for his. Save him!' she helped the priest to regain his freedom. Arrested and imprisoned, she suffered many ordeals, which led to an early death."

About 74% of Slovakia's 5.4 million inhabitants are Catholic. Relations between the Vatican and the Slovak Republic, which resulted from the separation of Czechoslovakia, were regulated and ratified in 2000.