Archbishop Bernard Bober of Košice, chairman of the Slovak Bishops’ Conference, expressed deep regret over the violent incident and condemned what authorities are now treating as an act of attempted murder. / Credit: Marek Mucha/Slovakian Bishops’ Conference

CNA Newsroom, May 16, 2024 / 13:24 pm (CNA).

Following the assassination attempt on Prime Minister Robert Fico on Wednesday, Slovakian bishops have called for peace and unity.

“We must actively work for peace,” Archbishop Bernard Bober of Košice, chairman of the Slovak Bishops’ Conference, said in a statement on May 15.

“It is important that we respect each other and strengthen the good in each of us,” he said, calling on the public to reject all forms of violence and promote the good in people instead.

Bober expressed his deep regret over the violent incident and condemned what authorities are now treating as an act of attempted murder.

The gunman was described as a “lone wolf” who acted out of political hatred against Fico, Slovak news agency SITA reported. The attacker expressed his dissatisfaction with government policy in a video published online before the assassination attempt. He now faces attempted murder charges and life in prison.

On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kalinak said Fico’s condition was still severe and that it was too early to tell if he would recover, Reuters reported.

Bober said in his statement: “I wish the prime minister a speedy recovery and ask the faithful to pray for peace in our homeland and for all citizens of the Slovak Republic,” Bober said in his statement. 

Archbishop Stanislav Zvolensky of Bratislava posted a statement on social media expressing his prayer for Fico’s recovery and healing.

The statement stressed that Zvolensky was appalled by the tragic incident and announced that the archbishop would celebrate Mass at the country’s national shrine in Šaštín.

The basilica in Šaštín was built to honor the image of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, a figure so important to the people of Slovakia that Pope Pius XI declared her the country’s patroness in 1927.

The assassination attempt on 59-year-old Fico — who was raised and has described himself as Catholic — has shaken the Catholic-majority country visited by Pope Francis in 2021. 

The prayers and appeals from Slovakian prelates come at a critical time for the country — and wider Europe: The assassination attempt on Fico represents the first public assassination attempt on a European politician in more than 20 years.

The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, told journalists in an initial reaction on May 15 that he was “truly concerned about what has happened.” Parolin pointed to an apparent increase in politically motivated violence.

Slovakia’s President-elect, Peter Pellegrini, called on political parties to tone down their campaigning before next month’s European Parliament elections, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.