Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Friday 15 January |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Nikolaus Gross
home iconChurch
line break icon

"Lord, Forgive..." Pope Francis makes prayerful visit to Auschwitz

Diane Montagna - published on 07/29/16

Pope meets Holocaust survivors and those honored for their heroism

Pope Francis passing through gates of Auschwitz EpiskopatNews
Episkopatnews

AUSCHWITZ — Passing silently through the main iron gate of Auschwitz that bears the infamous slogan “Arbeit Macht Frei” [work sets you free], Pope Francis on Friday continued his five-day trip to Poland with an historic visit to the former Nazi death camp.

Upon entering the camp, the Holy Father boarded an electric vehicle towards Block 11 (a brick building containing special torture chambers where various punishments were applied to prisoners) and the infamous “Death Wall” where the condemned were led for execution. SS men shot several thousand people there.

In the roll call square where the Polish priest and martyr, St. Maximilian Kolbe, offered his life in exchange for that of another prisoner, the Holy Father paused in silent and personal prayer.

Pope meets with survivors at Auschwitz
EpiskopatNews

Welcomed at the entrance of Block 11 by Poland’s Prime Minister, Mrs. Beata Maria Szydło, the pope then met individually with 12 survivors of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp. Among the survivors were 101-year-old polish violinist, Helena Dunicz Niwinska; 95-year old Professor Zbigniew Kaczkowski, who escaped from Auschwitz but was captured and imprisoned in Block 11; and 74-year-old Eva Umlauf, who was brought to the camp at the age of two.

Given a candle by the last survivor, the pope then lit a lamp in front of the death wall, bowing his head in prayer before entering alone into the “starvation cell” where the Polish priest and saint, Maximilian Kolbe, was martyred.

The pope’s visit coincides with the 75th anniversary of the day Kolbe was condemned to death. Known for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Maximilian sought to help the other prisoners and could be heard praying and singing hymns to Jesus and Mary until his death.

Upon leaving the cell of the martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe, the pope signed the Book of Honor with these words in Spanish:

“Señor, ten piedad de tu pueblo!

Señor, perdón por tanta crueldad!”

Lord, have mercy on your people!


Lord, forgiveness for so much cruelty!

Pope Francis note Aushwitz

Pope Francis then made his way to the Birkenau Camp, the largest camp within the complex located in Oświęcim. After passing the main entrance of the court, the Holy Father proceeded to the International Monument to the Victims, which Pope Benedict visited in 2006. Accompanied by the Prime Minister and the Director of the Auschwitz Museum, in the presence of about 1,000 guests, the Holy Father proceeded on foot to the monument, where recollected in silent prayer, he left a lighted candle. There he met 25 “Righteous among the Nations,” non-Jews who have been honored for risking their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis.

A Rabbi then sang Psalm 130 in Hebrew, which was then read in Polish by one of the survivors.

After his visit to the Birkenau Camp, Pope Francis returned to Kraków.

Tags:
Pope FrancisWorld Youth Day
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
DAD, HOW DO I?
Cerith Gardiner
Meet the dad who's teaching basic skills on Y...
FORGIVING COUPLE
Bret Thoman, OFS
An exorcist teaches 4 steps to forgive
Philip Kosloski
What is the Holy Cloak of St. Joseph?
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful...
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Why God loves ordinary stuff: Pope Francis' r...
POPE FRANCIS; Ash Wednesday
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Vatican: Imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday...
D'CRUZ FAMILY
Cerith Gardiner
Meet the family of 12 siblings with a very sp...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.