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Slovakian Catholic priest Emil Floris was officiating for solemn Mass commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Slovak national uprising against Nazi Germany in Slovak Čadca last month when he blamed the Jews for the hatred against them during the Holocaust. He warned that the same thing could happen again to the Roma (Gypsies).

According to Slovakian news site E15, in a televised sermon Floris said:

From all over Europe, they took the Jews to concentration camps. And do you know why? Because there was hatred toward them, but those who are hated often do it to themselves. Now there is a risk for some Roma. And you know why? Because of abuse of the system and the kindness of others.

The priest added that the period Slovakia was an ally of Nazi Germany was a “freedom period.” And he contended that Slovakian fascists during the Holocaust didn’t know what was going on behind the barbed wire. They said they were just obeying orders, and the president at the time, Jozef Tiso, was helpless to do anything.

The Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism in Europe explains that recent election of neo-Nazi leaders in Slovakia has combined with a movement to rehabilitate the reputation of the war-time regime of Roman Catholic Priest Jozef Tiso, who led the country as a satellite of Nazi Germany and helped them commit atrocities against the Jews. The Center asserts that the renascent anti-Semitism has made some inroads in the Sloviakian Catholic community.

A local teacher, a Catholic who asked not to be identified, spoke to E15 about the Floris sermon. She said that she didn’t understand why the Church keeps returning to those themes. It “just confirms that the Slovak Catholic Church has not yet gotten over its collaboration with the fascists during the war”

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Slovakia’s spokesman Lucia Kollárová said the priest’s comments were “in direct conflict with the official memorandums of the Catholic Church.” The part of the Floris speech relating to the Holocaust and Jews “contains false and anti-Semitic cliches, relativizes the suffering of the Jewish population at the time of the Slovak State, insults and belittles the memory of the victims.”

Indeed, the words of Emil Floris run contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Earlier this year, when visiting Yad Vashem, Pope Francis prayed:

Almighty Lord, a soul in anguish cries out to you. Hear, Lord, and have mercy! We have sinned against you. You reign for ever . Remember us in your mercy. Grant us the grace to be ashamed of what we men have done, to be ashamed of this massive idolatry, of having despised and destroyed our own flesh which you formed from the earth, to which you gave life with your own breath of life. Never again, Lord, never again!

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