Slovak President and Plenipotentiary for Roma object to wave of hate and racism following announcement of Pope's visit to Romani neighborhood
Andrea Bučková, the Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for Romani Communities, has expressed her regret and her great disappointment at the statements made by both politicians and regular citizens about the planned visit of Pope Francis to Košice's Luník IX housing estate, according to a press release issued by Michal Šlechta of the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for Romani Communities on 5 August. The Plenipotentiary was responding to a wave of commentaries on social media featuring hateful or racist remarks about the Romani communities at the housing estate.
"Only somebody who knows nothing about the life and work of Pope Francis could react like that. The Holy Father has always been close to people who live on the periphery and Luník IX is exactly such a periphery of Košice," the Plenipotentiary said in her press release.
Bučková also expressed her appreciation for the decision by the Conference of Bishops of Slovakia and the Vatican to have the Pope visit people living in challenging conditions and said she is convinced the Pope's visit will move the community forward. "This papal visit will have a positive impact on people's spiritual lives and I believe Romani people in Slovakia will not allow it to be debased by these hateful, racist comments," the Plenipotentiary added.
Slovak President objects to lies told by the chair of the Slovak National Party
Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová has objected to remarks made by the leader of the Slovak National Party, Andrej Danko, who has alleged it was the President who proposed the Pope visit the housing estate. "Does anybody here get why we're going to show off Luník IX? That disgrace will be in the media abroad? What is President Čaputová's aim in proposing something like that?" Danko asked on social media.
The Office of the President of the Slovak Republic has firmly objected to those remarks and called them lies. "The Pope is coming to visit the Slovak Republic at the invitation of both the President and the Conference of Bishops of Slovakia (KBS), and while the Office of the President is participating in preparing the visit, we are responsible solely for those points of the program in the Presidential Palace, where the official welcoming ceremony will take place, and in the Presidential Garden, where a meeting will be held with figures from political and social life and representatives of diplomatic missions," the President said.
"The pastoral part of his visit is the responsibility of the KBS and the Holy See. The Pope has been famous, from the beginning of his pontificate, for customarily visiting the periphery and seeking out meetings with the people living there," the President observed.
"For that reason, he has decided to also visit Košice's Luník IX housing estate, where he will meet with the Romani community and appreciate the activities of the local Salesians, who have long been working there and have confidential knowledge of the daily problems of the local residents. Their community center offers culture and different recreational activities," the President noted.
"The Salesians themselves consider the papal visit to be a great boost, both in human terms and spiritually," said the President, adding that she finds it regrettable that the Holy Father's noble intentions are being abused by some in their political fight for nothing other than their own visibility and that such people are misleading and manipulating the public to boot. Pope Francis will visit Slovakia on 12-15 September.
In addition to visiting the capital, Bratislava, the Pope will also visit Košice and Prešov and take part in a pilgrimage in Šaštín. His visit to Luník IX is planned for 14 September at 16:00 CET.
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