SPECIAL SENT TO BRATISLAVA
In one of the scenes of the greatest crime in the history of mankind, Pope Francis and the Slovak Jewish community have signed a pact of fraternal friendship on Monday in the name of God. At the foot of grim holocaust memorial, built on the site of the synagogue emptied by the Nazi persecution and destroyed in 1969 by the communist government, the voice of one of the last survivors was also raised.
The President of the Union of Jewish Communities of Slovakia, Richard Duda, welcomed the Pope “in a place that embodies the symbiosis between Christians and Jews” for “here stood, one next to the other, the Christian temple and the Jewish temple”, in Moorish style.
The five-meter-high Holocaust memorial and the stones from the demolished synagogue send, according to the leader of Slovak Jews, “a message to future generations: evil wins when evil people rise to power and good people do not have the strength or courage to resist evil.l».
The pope listened with pain for the memory of the great crime – committed before the indifference of most of the population– but also with hope when Richard Duda, married to a Christian for more than thirty years, has stated that «Love of neighbor has a central place in Christianity and also in Judaism. If the commandment of love is translated into laws and institutions, society will be just. And this is what we all want.
Then, Tomas Lang, one of the last survivors of the Holocaust – which cost his parents their lives – recalled the help of some nurses who saved him as a child by pretending that he had a contagious disease. And he paid tribute to the head of the nunciature in Slovakia, Monsignor Giuseppe Burzio, “who tried tirelessly to curb the anti-Semitism of the murderous regime of that time, which was not opposed by any Slovak politician.”
More than one hundred thousand Slovak Jews murdered
The Pope recalled in his speech recalling that the Fish Square (Rybné Námestie) «was for centuries part of the Jewish quarter. The famous Rabbi Chatam Sofer works here. Here was a synagogue, right next to the Coronation Cathedral“, So called because in it many kings of Hungary received the crown.
Francisco has affirmed that «here I also feel the need, like many of you, to ‘take off my sandals’, because I am in a place blessed by the brotherhood of men in the name of the Most High ».
That happy stage was followed by tragedy because «In the madness of hatred, during the Second World War, more than one hundred thousand Slovak Jews were murdered. And later, when they wanted to erase the traces of the Jewish community, the synagogue was demolished.
According to the Pope, “here the name of God was dishonored, because the worst blasphemy that can be caused is to use it for one’s own ends, instead of respecting and loving others. Here, before the history of the Jewish people, marked by this tragic and unspeakable wrong, we are ashamed to admit it».
But shame and pain are a stimulus for the new stage in which «we are united – I repeat it – in the condemnation of all violence, of all forms of anti-Semitism, and in the effort so that the image of God in the human person is not desecrated.
Francisco has reiterated that «Destruction and death do not have the last word, but renewal and life. And if the synagogue was demolished on this site, the community is still around. It is alive and open to dialogue. Here our stories meet again. Here together we affirm before God the will to continue on a path of rapprochement and friendship ».
The Holy Father concluded by praying that “may the Almighty bless you so that, in the midst of so much discord that pollutes our world, they may always, together, be witnesses of peace. Shalom!
Below the head of the Jewish community and the Pope they have lit two thick candles in memory of the millions of victims before beginning a psalm and a funeral prayer sung in Hebrew. In the invisible presence of so many murdered people, the song broke the heart.
At the end, the Pope gave the President of the Slovak Jews a large ceramic soup plate, the kind that Sicilian families used to eat together, at home, from a single plate. His presence, his words and his gestures could not be more fraternal, and the 140 Jews of all ages participating in the meeting said goodbye to him with applause.