Francis arrived at the presidential palace looking good and rested on the second day of his four-day pilgrimage to Hungary and Slovakia, which marks his first international outing since undergoing bowel surgery in July.
In a message to the Slovak people written in the palace’s book of honor, Francis wrote that he came as a pilgrim to Bratislava and prayed for the country to be a “message of brotherhood and peace in the heart of Europe.”
After a rigorous day in Budapest on Sunday, 84-year-old Francisco spends Monday in Bratislava, where the highlight of his visit is an evening gathering at the capital’s Holocaust memorial, built on the site of a destroyed synagogue. by the communist regime in the 1960s.
He attends the event after calling on Christians and Jews on Sunday to work together to stop the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, saying it was a “fuse that must not be allowed to light.”
Slovakia declared its independence from Czechoslovakia on March 14, 1939 and became a Nazi puppet state with a Roman Catholic priest and politician Jozef Tiso as the country’s president.
Under his rule, the country adopted strict anti-Jewish laws and deported some 75,000 Jews to Nazi death camps where about 68,000 perished. Tiso was sentenced to death and hanged in 1947.
Now only about 5,000 Jews live in Slovakia, a predominantly Catholic country of 5.5 million currently ruled by a coalition government of four center-right parties.
Just last week, the government formally apologized for racial laws that stripped the country’s Jews of their human and civil rights, impeded their access to education, and authorized the transfer of their properties to non-Jewish owners.
On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the “Jewish Code” adopted on September 9, 1941, the government said in a statement on September 8 that it “today feels a moral obligation to publicly express its regret for the crimes committed by the previous regime.”
The code was considered one of the strictest anti-Jewish laws adopted in Europe during the war.
Slovakia is now home to the far-right Our Slovakia People’s Party, which has had members in the Slovak Parliament since 2016. The party openly defends the legacy of the Slovak Nazi puppet state from World War II. Its members use Nazi salutes and want Slovakia out of the European Union and NATO.
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