Thursday, May 19, 2005

Pope Benedict on the Holocaust

The Holocaust was the topic of much discussion the other week here at CGT. Pope Benedict XVI addressed it today after watching a movie about Pope John Paul's days in Poland under the Nazi regime.

Pope Benedict, in his first major address about the Nazi era in his native Germany, on Thursday condemned "the genocide of the Jews", and said humanity must never be allowed to forget or repeat such atrocious crimes.

Speaking exactly one month after his election, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger also quoted from a famous phrase of reconciliation between German and Polish Catholic bishops issued in the 1960s: "We forgive and we seek forgiveness."

He spoke of "the repression of the Polish people and the genocide of the Jews", branding both "atrocious crimes that show everyone the evil that the Nazi ideology had within it".

During the three-hour-long film the Pope watched pensively as the Nazis blew up a synagogue, rounded up Polish Jews and university professors and took them to crematoria at Auschwitz.

In his address, parts of which were read in an emotional voice and drew repeated applause from the crowd, the Pope said the Nazi period illustrated the "abysses of wickedness that can hide in the human soul".

He added: "Remembering such aberrations can only prompt in every upright person the commitment to do everything in their power so that episodes of such inhuman barbarism are never repeated."

"As time passes, memories should not be allowed to pale," he said, speaking in Italian. "They must instead serve as a stern lesson for our and future generations. We have the duty to remind people, especially young people, what levels of unheard of violence the contempt for man and the violation of his rights can reach," he added.

Benedict, who will travel to Germany in August for World Youth Day, said he believed it was "part of the divine plan of providence" that two successive popes -- John Paul and himself -- had lived through the horrors of World War Two on opposite sides of the same border.