Already in 2016, as part of his visit to Azerbaijan, Pope Francis had visited the mission managed by the Salesians of Slovakia. Therefore, this event represents a second occasion to welcome the Holy Father.
Fr Peter Timko, Provincial of Slovakia, sees this visit as a great human and spiritual fortification. “For us it is a joyful surprise. Pope Francis is a true master of surprises. Of course, it is not surprising that in his visits he always favors the poorest. For us Salesians, the surprise is that he will come to Luník IX, where one of our communities works. I look forward to this visit and I'm very grateful.”
The Director of the work of Luník IX, Fr Peter Veselský, in his words underlines the sensitivity of the Pontiff towards the most marginalized people. “After learning of Pope Francis' arrival in Slovakia and especially Košice-Luník IX, I remembered the day of his election, when he said that the Cardinals had gone to the end of the world to find the Pope. And now, this Pope who came from the end of the world, in his pontificate looks for people who live at the end of the world. So he surprised us too, because he also wants to come to Luník IX. Roma often live isolated from others and the Holy Father comes to reduce this isolation and to build bridges, so that Roma also feel members of society, members of the Church.”
Fr Peter Bešenyei, speaking of Pope Francis' visit, wanted to emphasize above all the desire of Pope Francis to go to Luník IX, “where no one wants to come.”
Fr Peter explains: “It's difficult to find teachers for Luník IX, it is difficult to find priests available to work there. Instead the Pope comes to this difficult environment, because the periphery is dear to him. He comes to Košice-Luník IX for the people who live in this suburb.” According to Fr Peter Bešenyei, the Pope's visit will also encourage mutual acceptance. “Sometimes we feel a tension between majorities and minorities,” he says, “and the Holy Father is the one who builds the bridges. I hope it helps us to be more available for mutual forgiveness.” Finally, Fr Bešenyei dwells on the difficulties in the pastoral care of the Roma and on the expectations: “For many years we have been trying to evangelize the Roma and it is not easy at all. Let's move forward in small steps. Thus, I hope the Holy Father will bring us more hope for this journey.”
The Salesians of Don Bosco have been working in Košice, among the Roma, in the Luník IX district (population of about 4,300 Roma) since July 2008, when they also took responsibility for the construction of the community center. The Church of the Risen Christ was consecrated in 2010 and the community center was opened in 2012 with the blessing of the then Rector Major, Fr Pascual Chàvez.