Auschwitz death camp visit will be profound for Francis

Pope Francis is likely to question humanity and the depths to which it can fall during his visit to the Auschwitz death camp in July, a confidante says.

Francis will visit the camp while he is in Poland for World Youth Day.

He will follow in the footsteps of his predecessors, St John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who also visited Auschwitz.

In 2006, Benedict XVI questioned God amid what he described as a “stupefied” silence: “Where was God in those days? Why was he silent? How could he permit this endless slaughter, this triumph of evil?”

“I pray to God not to allow a similar thing ever to happen again,” he said.

According to Fr Antonio Spadaro, who edits a Jesuit-run journal in Rome and is a confidante of Francis, the current Pope, like John Paul II and Benedict XVI before him, “finds this to be a mandatory, one could say fundamental, stop”.

As with Benedict, during his visit Francis will share an interreligious prayer with leaders of the local Jewish community.

Fr Spadaro believes that just as the German pontiff questioned God during his visit to Auschwitz, Francis is bound to question humanity, as he did in 2014, when he visited the Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem, in Israel.

“Adam, where are you?” Francis asked at the time.

“Adam, who are you? I no longer recognise you. Who are you, o man? What have you become? Of what horror have you been capable? What made you fall to such depths?”

“In Auschwitz he will ask this question again to remind men and women that what was done here is incomprehensible,” Fr Spadaro told Crux, minutes after a visit to the extermination camp.

On the other hand, the priest added, “in the relationship with God, Auschwitz is the icon of a world that doesn’t know mercy”.

More than 1 million Jews from all over Europe, 150,000 Poles, 25,000 gypsies, 15,000 Soviets and 25,000 prisoners from other ethnic groups were deported to Auschwitz in World War II.

Of these, 1.1 million were killed, and 90 per cent of those killed were Jews.


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