Pope Francis plans to meet Slovakia's Roma minority when he visits the EU member next month, an archbishop said Monday in a statement marking Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.
In Slovakia from September 12-15, the pontiff will meet with the Roma community of the impoverished Lunik IX housing estate, an urban wasteland in the second city of Kosice.
"Pope Francis is conscious of the problems of minorities and has accepted to attend the planned meeting at Lunik IX," said Bernard Bober, archbishop of Kosice.
"Perhaps it will be a new beginning for the cooperation of the majority with the minority," he added.
Nearly 20 percent of Slovakia's estimated 400,000 Roma live in abject poverty in more than 600 shanty towns in the eurozone country of 5.4 million people.
The government official responsible for Roma issues, Andrea Buckova, said Monday it was necessary to remind younger generations that racism and hate speech have no place in society.
"Unfortunately, discrimination persists in Slovakia, while stereotypes and prejudice against the Roma people are mounting," she told local news agency SITA.
Roma Holocaust Memorial Day marks the events of August 2-3, 1944, when the Nazis killed nearly 3,000 Roma, mostly women, children and seniors, at the Auschwitz death camp.
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