By Lydia O’Kane - Bratislava
Just a stone’s throw away from the Cathedral of St Martin is Rybné (Fish) Square, an important reference point in Bratislava for both the public and the Jewish community.
Just three months ago, Bratislava City Council designated the nearby space as a "Passage of Memory.” It now replaces the Zion Neolog Synagogue which was demolished in 1969 to make way for a bridge over the river Danube.
In 1996, the Holocaust Memorial was erected here to commemorate the 5.000 Slovak Jews who perished during the war.
Each year, on September 9, the Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust and racial violence is held here.
Remembering a painful past
As you walk around this place of memory, you can still see the floral wreaths which were placed there for this year’s ceremony.
The Pope is coming to Rybné Square on Monday to meet with the Jewish community here in Bratislava, as part of his Apostolic Visit to Slovakia.
One of the people taking part is Christian Slovak Theologian, Dr. Lucia Hidveghyova, who is also the editor of a book on Jewish-Catholic relations entitled, “From Seelisberg to Jerusalem and Rome". Speaking to Vatican Radio, she reflected on the significance of Pope Francis' visit.
“I feel the personal presence of the Pope and his interest; this was his initiative," she said. "The meeting was not initiated by the Jewish community. So, I think this is a clear sign of his genuine interest.”
“I hope it will bring more interest, more reflection,” she added, “on the nature of Jewish Christian relations from both sides, because I think we don’t quite appreciate how close the Jewish religion is for Catholics or for Christians.”
Speaking about the importance of memory and educating new generations, Dr. Hidveghyova said, “the importance of education in this field is something that cannot be overestimated.” Learning about the past, she continued, “keeps us sensitive towards these issues.”
The theologian stressed that “the tragedy of the Jewish people is the tragedy of all people… their culture is part of our culture, their history is part of our history.”