San Francisco Chronicle
Pope seeks to build ties with Jewish community
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Pope Francis honored Slovakian Holocaust victims and atoned for Christian complicity in wartime crimes as he sought to promote reconciliation Monday in a country where a Catholic priest was president of a Nazi puppet state that deported tens of thousands of its Jews.
“Your history is our history, your sufferings are our sufferings,” Francis told members of Slovakia’s small, remaining Jewish community, standing in the shadow of the country’s Holocaust memorial.
Even though St. John Paul II made three trips to Slovakia, he never met with the country’s Jews, evidence of the strained local Catholic-Jewish relations that endured in the post-war decades even with a Polish pope known for his outreach to Jews.
As a result, Francis’ welcome by the community — during the solemn 10-day period of repentance stretching from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur — was a significant step forward and was hailed as historic by local Jewish leaders who said it was a chance to look to the future.
Francis, 84, is on the second day of a four-day pilgrimage to Hungary and Slovakia, his first big international outing since undergoing intestinal surgery in July.
He was solemn on Monday, listening to testimony from a Holocaust survivor about the horrors of the Shoah and the enduring pain of the Jewish community.
“Let us unite in condemning all violence and every form of antisemitism, and in working to ensure that God’s image, present in the humanity he created, will never be profaned,” Francis said.
Slovakia declared its independence from Czechoslovakia in 1939 and became a Nazi puppet state with priest Jozef Tiso becoming the country’s president. Under his rule, the country deported around 75,000 Jews to Nazi death camps where about 68,000 perished.