Pope Francis made a historic visit on Friday to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the notorious former German Nazi concentration camp in Poland. The visit has once again sparked the debate on one of the 20th century’s worst atrocities. The visit of the leader of the Catholic Church has also called decades of debate over how the Vatican acted during WWII.
Pope paid tribute to the more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, who lost their lives there during World War II. The visit has come after his statement this week that ‘the world is at war’.
Francis prayed silently for 15 minutes before meeting with several survivors and their families, including Holocaust survivor and Jewish activist Marian Turski, who was held at the concentration camp. He then carried a large white candle to the Death Wall, where prisoners were executed.
Right before his visit, the pope said to media that he would like to go to that place of horror without speeches, without crowds, adding “And may the Lord give me the grace to cry.” “There are places and tragedies which make you at a loss for words; where actually there are no words to express what so many still see as unimaginable.”
The pope wrote in the memorial’s guest book in Spanish, “Lord, have pity on your people. Lord, forgive so much cruelty.”
The Pope also visited the nearby Birkenau camp, known as Auschwitz II, where he met with dozens of people who housed Jews or risked their lives to protect them from the Nazis.