Declaration of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Slovakia on the Vatican Document on the Shoah
Tyrnau, March 25, 1998
Translated from German by Fritz Voll
In Slovakia the Jewish question is a delicate issue, and whoever dares to touch on it touches a painful wound. The history of Slovakia provides evidence of this. Before World War II thousands of Jews lived in Slovakia. There are streets and even entire quarters named after them. In almost all the cities there remain synagogues, one of which is among the largest city houses of worship. This is all evidence of what was once a vibrant religious and social life. Many buildings remain but the people have disappeared. This situation indicates that something happened here which deeply influenced life in Slovakia and the life of its Jewish inhabitants. At least since World War II relationships between Slovak and Jewish people have been tense and strained. We cannot deny that deportations of Jewish citizens took place in our midst and that some Slovak people participated in this or silently observed it.
Representatives of the Slovak Catholic Church have on several recent occasions expressed deep regret for this tragic event. In October, 1987 Cardinal Ján Chryzostom Korec, as bishop without state permission, signed a declaration concerning the deportation of Jews from Slovakia in which he and other representatives of the Slovak nation asked the Jewish people for forgiveness. In 1990 the Bishops Conference of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic (CSFR) twice expressed the desire to overcome all vestiges of anti-Semitism by means of truth, repentance and penance.
Today, when Slovakia is having its first experience as an independent state as well as an independent church province, it is understandable that she wants to have a strong foundation. This also involves objectively inquiring into Jewish history in Slovakia. To complete this effort Christians in Slovakia, in an effort to increase national and state solidarity, can take the first step and ask for forgiveness for the injustices perpetrated in their territory. In our growing awareness that it is impossible to understand the roots of Christianity without understanding Jewish tradition, such a step would be a contribution to the program of church renewal in preparation for the third millennium. One of the important aspects of this renewal is a new relationship with the Jewish people which must begin with a plea for forgiveness.
During this time of repentance, inspired by Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Bishops of Slovakia ask our Jewish brothers and sisters for forgiveness, and we also ask all Catholics as well as all Christians and people of good will to join us in this effort to overcome all prejudice. We believe that this act of apology to the Jewish people, in the context of “moral and religious memory”, will be understood as an act of repentance and an act of love of the crucified Christ who is our peace.