Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim

1993-04-09 John Paul II - letter to the Auschwitz community of discalced Carmelite nuns

Dear sisters,


“… My vocation is love. Oh, yes, I have now found my own place in the Church ... The Church has a heart and ... that heart is on fire with love ... and that love has shown itself to me as the essence of my vocation ... in the heart of my Mother, the Church, I will be love” (Quote from the autobiography of Saint Therese of Lisieux).

In these words the holy Carmelite of Lisieux defines the essence of the vocation of each of her Carmelite Sisters, of each of you. You came to Auschwitz in order to be love in the heart of the Church. Need one explain how much the Church's heart ought to be present in this very place, how much Christ's love is needed, that love with which He loved each person to the end. How much that love is needed here, where hate and contempt raged throughout entire years, gathering a harvest of destruction and death among people of so many nations?

Presently, in accord with the will of the Church, your community is to relocate to another place in Auschwitz. Each of you however has the right to freely choose whether you want to continue your Carmelite life in your present community or rather to return to the monastery in which you resided before you came to Auschwitz. This is undoubtedly a moment of trial for each of you. I ask Christ Crucified and Risen to give each Sister the grace to recognize His will and her specific vocation on the Carmelite way of life.

Auschwitz and all that is associated therewith as a tragic heritage of Europe and humanity, remains the task of Carmel. The task which remains embraces all that the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp connotes in the memories of the nations: in the memory of the sons and daughters of Israel as well as all the vibrations of the camp in the experiences of Poles and in the history of our Fatherland. The way in which the future will grow out of this most painful past largely depends on whether or not love keeps vigil at the threshold of Auschwitz – that love which is stronger than death.

To you, dear Sisters, the mystery of that redeeming love is particularly entrusted, that love which saves the world. And how much our contemporary world - fifty years after the frightful war which took its toll in Auschwitz and not only – how much that world is constantly threatened by hate!

Dear Daughters of Carmel, receive simultaneously the Paschal Joy which the Church lives during the Easter Season. Receive also my blessing in the name of Jesus Christ who redeemed the world.

John Paul II, PP

Signed at the Vatican on the ninth of April in the year of our Lord, 1993.

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