On the second day of his visit to Slovakia, the Pope arrived in the afternoon of this Tuesday to social hell from the Lunix IX neighborhood in Kosice, the second largest city in the country, and told the five thousand gypsies who live there that “you are the heart of the Church”.
Francisco, who since Sunday began his tour of Budapest and Slovakia he never put on the mask, he went to one of the poorest social ghettos in Europe and refused to keep separated from the people, as the municipality tried in the face of the growth of the Corvid-19 virus pandemic in recent weeks in the place.
The neighborhood is cared for by priests. no electricity or gas, no sewers or other services. “It is formidable that the Holy Father comes to a place where nobody wants to go”Said Salesian Father Peter Besenyer.
The Lunik IX neighborhood was to be a showcase of development during the communist regime that Slovakia suffered, but it ended up becoming a cursed place, reserved for the last.
And there came the Roma, an ethnic group of gypsies. One more in the 600 neighborhoods of gypsies that exist in Slovakia, Slovenia, the majority scattered in the south and east of the country, where they exist huge pockets of poverty.
a 20% of Roma live in extreme poverty in this country of the European Union of 27 nations of only 5.5 million inhabitants.
A despised and persecuted ethnic group
Gypsies are a despised ethnic group in Slovakia, persecuted and discriminated against for an attitude “widely tolerated” by the country’s population, as explained by Iveta Duchonova, head of the government office in the community of the Lunix IX neighborhood.
Anti-Gypsy racism, Duchonova said, “is not a consequence of his life, but is supported by historical patterns of discrimination Against them”.
The Argentine pope was enthusiastically received by some 2,500 residents, while others stayed in their homes and greeted him from their dirty and broken windows, and were comforted by hearing Jorge Bergoglio tell them that “God wants us all diverse but all together. I tell them: Always welcome to the Church. You are from home in the Church ”.
The pontiff, who has delivered all his speeches and speeches in Italian, he appeared moved. He listened to gypsy families who paraded before him without masks, with their children in their arms. They gave him modest gifts that Francisco received and praised.
A Slovak Salesian priest said with tears in his eyes that the poor gypsies “we have looked at with the eyes of Cain but now they feel looked at by Abel, with love, and they are happy.”
Gypsies are the ethnic group that suffers the most from social exclusion, with long years of discrimination, marginalization and problems. The greatest violence was experienced with the Nazi occupation, because Hitler also decided to consummate the “final solution” not only to the Jews but also to the Gypsies, who also died in the extermination camps like Auschwitz in the gas chambers.
The Pope later moved from the neighborhood inhabited by gypsies to the neighboring Lokomotiva stadium in Kosice where 30,000 young people were waiting for them. In the midst of great enthusiasm, the Pope traveled several internal paths among a sea of crowds, which unlike the other encounters, respected the prudential measure of using masks that protect from the spread of the coronavirus.
Kosice is one of the seven Slovak provinces that are in the red band, the one with the highest level of alarm due to the multiplication of the pandemic virus.
The meeting served to remember the martyrdom of the young woman Anka Kosesarova, assassinated by a Soviet soldier in 1944 and beatified in the same stadium three years ago.
The stadium was also attended by several thousand Czechs who arrived from the neighboring country with the Archbishop of Prague Dominik Kuka at the helm.
Anka Kosesarova was a 16-year-old who was shot dead by a Soviet soldier after he resisted rape, after the expulsion of the Nazis from Slovakia.
A large painting showing the young martyr was placed next to the papal throne in the stadium. The postulator for his cause of beatification, Pavol Hudak, recalled that the last words he spoke to his father were “Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”
These words were highlighted by the young people in the stadium, who chanted the Pope’s motto on this visit to Slovakia: “With Mary and Joseph on the path of Jesus.” Country of 5.5 million inhabitants, 62% are Catholic.
Francisco left by plane at seven in the morning for Presov and Kosice, the two cities he visited in eastern Slovakia.
They waited for him in Presov 40 thousand Catholic faithful of Greek rite, which filled an open-air stadium.
The Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the Byzantine rite, which was especially persecuted by the regime that reigned in this country until the final crisis of European communism in 1989.
The Pope took a global look and asked the faithful around the world not to transform Christianity “into a political symbol.”
“The witness who has the cross in his heart and not only on his neck does not see anyone as an enemy but sees everyone as brothers and sisters for whom Jesus gave his life.”
The crowd gathered at mass had been controlled with sanitary measures to avoid contagion of the coronavirus.
Bergoglio insisted on the need to reject “manipulations that instrumentalize religion.
“I am thinking of the martyrs who witnessed the love of Christ in very difficult times in this nation, when everyone advised to be silent, take shelter and not profess the faith,” he said, referring to the communist regime that Slovakia suffered.
The pontiff and his entourage then flew back to Bratislava. This Wednesday morning the Pope visit a national shrine and then he will say goodbye to the Slovaks to return to Rome, where his arrival is scheduled for 3.30 pm (five hours less in Argentina).