Coalition puts its quarrels on hold while the Pope visits

The ongoing papal visit is expected to dominate the news, but last week brought some changes on the Slovak political scene.

Pope Francis visits Slovakia for the first time.Pope Francis visits Slovakia for the first time. (Source: TASR)

Welcome to your weekly overview of news from Slovakia. This week’s highlight is Pope Francis’ four-day visit. We are also covering the break-up of the smallest coalition party, the rise in coronavirus infections, the roll-out of a third Covid vaccine dose, and the government’s apology for Slovakia’s wartime anti-Jewish laws.

Francis is in Slovakia

Slovakia welcomed one of its most-anticipated visitors, Pope Francis, who flew in from Budapest on Sunday and will stay until Wednesday, when he will celebrate the main mass of the national pilgrimage in Šaštín on the day of the Our Lady of Sorrows, the patron saint of Slovakia. You can follow our reports on the papal visit here.

“You invited me to Slovakia in December, and now I fulfil this promise,” Pope Francis told President Zuzana Čaputová as she welcomed him at Bratislava Airport. It is rumoured that the Slovak president’s meeting with Francis at the Vatican last year was among the reasons he decided to visit Slovakia. After the airport formalities on Sunday afternoon, the two met again on Monday morning. Afterwards, the Pope told the crowd of 500 invited guests in the garden of the Presidential Palace that Slovakia carries the message of peace in the centre of Europe. He also spoke of solidarity, sharing, and justice that is not for sale.

The papal visit is expected to dominate events this week. On Monday, the Pope meets with Slovakia’s highest constitutional officials and with members of the non-governmental sector and religious communities, notably the Jewish community in Bratislava. On Tuesday, he will attend a mass with Greek-Catholic believers in Prešov, and in the afternoon will visit a marginalised Roma community in Košice. A meeting with young people is planned in Košice in the late afternoon. On Wednesday, the Pope returns to western Slovakia to preside over the mass in Šaštín.

Follow The Slovak Spectator website for a detailed reporting of the Pope’s visit to Slovakia and more. For daily updates, check out our Today in Slovakia newsletter, which we send directly to your inbox at the end of every workday. You can sign up for Today in Slovakia with one click here.

Za Ľudí break-up unlikely to shatter coalition

The smallest coalition party’s stalemate has finally been resolved after months of feet-shuffling and getting nowhere. The group of MPs supporting Justice Minister Mária Kolíková announced on Monday that they were leaving the party and its parliamentary caucus to join the caucus of Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), which has thus become the second largest coalition caucus, now totalling 19 members.

Richard Sulík and Mária Kolíková announced the move at a joint press conference, with Sulík stating that the only condition they will insist on in talks with their other partners is that Kolíková should retain her ministerial post. This is not just a matter of one woman’s holding on to one ministerial chair, though.

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