ROME – In a message of inclusion, Pope Francis is reaching out to the Roma people of Slovakia, where he condemns the historic historical polarization of Central Europe, including the Jewish community.
On his second day in Slovakia, the pope traveled to the eastern city of Presov, where he celebrated the Byzantine rites at the city’s sports stadium. The highlight of the day was a visit to the Roma community in the nearby town of Cossis – a gesture analysts see as a sign of inclusion.
The poor Lunic neighborhood, which the pope will visit, is home to some of the country’s highest Roma residents, where his message is welcomed by the population, including overcrowded housing, in some cases without running water or electricity.
Slovakia has a 400,000-strong Roma minority who have historically faced discrimination.
On Monday, Pope Bratislava addressed the Slovak president and other officials in the garden of the presidential palace and stressed the need to work for the common good and not to focus on personal needs.
Referring to the nation’s communist past, the pope said that until a few decades ago, a single thought robbed freedom and added that “today another system is emptying the freedom of money, reducing the progress of profits and reducing rights only in private ways.”
Pope Francis said, “The growing pressure of integration requires a sense of brotherhood.”
The pope also addressed representatives of the Jewish community at the memorial to Jews killed in the Holocaust on Monday. At this point, a synagogue was demolished in an attempt to abolish every sign of the Jewish community in what the pope said in 1969.
Here in this place, the Pope said, the name of God was disrespected, because the worst form of blasphemy is to exploit it for our purposes, to respect and refuse to love others.
More than a million Slovak Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and the pope said they were ashamed of the way people said they believed in God.
The Jewish community in Slovakia now numbers about 2,000. Pope Francis said, “Let us condemn all violence and all forms of antisemitism.”
In the Slovak city of Sustin, a public director in the open sky on Wednesday highlighted Pontiff’s visit before returning to Rome. This is his first foreign trip to Hungary and Slovakia since bowel surgery in July.