During his Apostolic Visit to Slovakia, Pope Francis is drawing attention to the poor and the marginalized by making a private visit to “The Bethlehem Centre” for the homeless in Bratislava.
After signing the Centre’s “Book of Honour”, the Pope listened to some testimonies of volunteers and thanked the Sisters of Charity for their witness.
“I pray for you; please pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady protect you”, he said during the private meeting that took place on Monday afternoon, on the second day of his Apostolic Visit to Slovakia. (Read: 3 Ways St. Joseph Proved He Was an Exemplary Father)
The Centre is run by the Missionary Sisters of Charity, founded by St Teresa of Calcutta, and is situated in the largest borough of Bratislava on the banks of the River Danube. The district of Petržalka shares a border with Austria and is home to 110,000 people. It is also known for the many blocks of flats built in the 1970s and ’80s by the communist regime. In the ’80s and ’90s, it was known as the “Bratislava Bronx” due to the high crime rate in the area.
The Missionaries of Charity came to this area in 1997, transforming a kindergarten into a house for homeless people, receiving only the poorest of the poor. The sisters also go and search out those on the margins of society living under bridges in the city. Despite the tireless work of the sisters, this hidden gem of welcome and support is still unknown to many who live in the city. (Read: Pope’s Charity Reaches Out Again to COVID-Hit Countries)
The house provides long-term assistance and there are usually about 20 to 40 people in need living at the centre.
Fr Juraj Vittek is parish priest of the nearby church of the Holy Family, which is the biggest parish in Petržalka and had the honour of welcoming St John Paul II on his visit to Slovakia in 2003.
Text by Lydia O’Kane for Vatican News