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Pope calls for Europe to show pandemic 'solidarity'

During a visit to Slovakia, one of worst hit countries in Europe

13 September, 13:05
(ANSA-AFP) - BRATISLAVA, SEP 13 - Pope Francis called for Europe to show "solidarity" around the world during economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, speaking on a visit to Slovakia -- one of the worst hit countries in Europe. On his first foreign trip since a colon operation in July, the 84-year-old Argentine pontiff called the pandemic "the great test of our own time". "It has taught us how easy it is, even when we are all in the same boat, to withdraw and think only of ourselves," he said. Slovakia, a European Union member with a population of 5.4 million, had the highest per capita Covid-19 contagion and mortality rates in the world for several weeks this year. "After long and trying months of pandemic, fully conscious of the difficulties to be faced, we look forward with hope to an economic upturn favoured by the recovery plans of the European Union," the pope said in the Slovak capital, Bratislava. But he warned against "a fleeting sense of euphoria" and a focus on profits as countries begin to recover and called instead for Europe to display "a solidarity that, by transcending borders, can bring it back to the centre of history". The pope is also due to meet with members of Slovakia's Jewish community later on Monday, a day after warning that anti-Semitism was still "lurking" around the world. The meeting will take place on Rybne Square in what used to be a Jewish neighbourhood of Bratislava where a synagogue that was torn down in Communist times once stood. Three days before the pope's arrival, Slovakia's government issued an apology for the first time for the role played in the Holocaust by the Nazi puppet regime in power at the time. "The Slovak cabinet feels a moral duty to publicly express regret over the crimes committed by the ruling power of that time," it said, emphasising in particular the "condemnable" anti-Jewish laws adopted in 1941.

Under the orders of the then-government headed by a Catholic priest, Jozef Tiso, tens of thousands of Slovak Jews were deported and killed. A memorial on Rybne Square commemorates the 105,000 victims of the Holocaust in Slovakia. After the war, most of the survivors either emigrated or stayed and hid their Jewish identity. Under Communism, Jews were prosecuted and jailed for alleged Zionist crimes, and the regime banned practising their religion. The community now numbers only around 2,000 people and anti-Jewish attitudes remain strong in Slovakia, a predominantly Catholic country. (ANSA-AFP).

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