Pope Francis is first to atone for horrors of World War Two Slovak state, where Nazi-allied leader was Catholic priest

Pope Francis honored Slovakian victims of the Holocaust and atoned for Christian complicity in wartime crimes as he sought to promote reconciliation Monday in Slovakia, where a Catholic priest was president of a Nazi puppet state that deported tens of thousands of its Jews.

“Your history is our history, your sufferings are our sufferings,” Francis told members of Slovakia’s small, remaining Jewish community, standing in the shadow of the country’s Holocaust memorial.

Even though Pope John Paul II made three trips to Slovakia, he never met here with the country’s Jews, evidence of the strained local Catholic-Jewish relations that endured in the post-war decades even with a Polish pope known for his outreach to Jews.

As a result, Francis’ welcome by the community — during the solemn 10-day period of repentance stretching from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur — was a significant step forward and was hailed as historic by local Jewish leaders who said it was chance to look to the future.

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