(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis renewed his condemnation of the holocaust on Wednesday, and decried once again the persistent violence in the world as a “piecemeal” world war. The Holy Father’s remarks came during the course of the General Audience on Wednesday – the first since suspending the weekly appointment with pilgrims and tourists for the month of July, and the first since his return from Poland and the 2016 edition of World Youth Day.
While in Poland, Pope Francis visited the extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where German National Socialists murdered a million European Jews (one in every six victims of Shoah perished at Auschwitz) as part of their programme of Jewish extermination.
“The great silence of the visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau,” said Pope Francis, “was more eloquent than any word spoken could have been. In that silence I listened: I felt the presence of all the souls who passed through that place; I felt the compassion, the mercy of God, which a few holy souls were been able to bring even into that abyss. In that great silence, I prayed for all the victims of violence and war: and there, in that place, I realized more than ever how precious is memory; not only as a record of past events, but as a warning, and a responsibility for today and tomorrow, that the seed of hatred and violence not be allowed to take root in the furrows of history.”
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Departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis went on to recall the countless people – men and women, young and old – who still today suffer as a result of war. “Looking upon that cruelty, in that concentration camp,” he said, “I thought immediately of the cruelties of today, which are similar: not as concentrated as in that place, but everywhere in the world; this world that is sick with cruelty, pain, war, hatred, sadness; and this is why I always ask you for the prayer: that the Lord give us peace.”
Pope Francis’ visit to Poland also coincided with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the historic visit of Pope Saint John Paul II following the fall of the Iron Curtain.
“Poland, Europe and the world have changed greatly since then, but the young continue to be a prophetic sign of hope for the future.” Describing the scene of hundreds of thousands of young people from every corner of the globe waving the flags of their respective countries, Pope Francis said that the young people formed a mosaic of fraternity and a joyful response to the challenge of the Gospel. “Poland, with its rich cultural and spiritual heritage,” he continued, “today reminds us that Europe has no future apart from its founding values, centred on the Christian vision of man and including the message of mercy expressed so eloquently in the last century by Saints John Paul and Faustina Kowalska.”
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