“John Paul II and Benedict XVI in Auschwitz” is an album which, apart from photos of the two Popes in Auschwitz, presents the Homily delivered by John Paul II during the Holy Mass in KL Birkenau in 1979 and the speech of Benedict XVI in the same place in 2006.
Edited by Fr. Jan Machniak
Graphic design by Jadwiga Mączka
Biblioteka CDiM 7
Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim, UNUM Publishing House, Kraków 2009
Also available in Polish and German.
Foreword of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Cracow
The drama of man which took place in Auschwitz had always been very close to the heart of God’s Servant John Paul II. He stood before the mystery of the extermination of millions of people as a priest and a Cracow Archbishop with humility. As the Peter of our times, he boldly accepted the challenge of looking for the sense of sacrifice and death of innocent people. When he came to Auschwitz as Pope in the year 1979, he uttered the memorable words:
“I come here today as a pilgrim. As you know, I have been here many times. So many times! And many times I have gone down to Father Maximilian Kolbe’s death cell, paused before the execution wall and walked amid the ruins of the Birkenau ovens. It was impossible not to come here as Pope. Therefore I have come to this specific shrine, in which – I may say – the patron of our difficult century was born, similarly as nine centuries ago, Stanislaus, the patron of the Polish people had been born under the sword in the Skalka church. But I come here today, not only to worship the patron of our century. I come so as to confront once again the main problem of man. Naturally, I am also coming here today to pray together with all of you who have gathered here – and together with the whole of Poland – the whole of Europe. Christ wants me as the successor of St. Peter to testify before the whole world what the greatness and the misery of the man of our times consists in” (John Pau l Il , Homily during the Holy Mass celebrated on the territory of the former concentration camp, 7 June 1979) He came to Auschwitz to pray and give testimony about the drama of man which had taken place there.
The experience of Auschwitz – of the extermination of millions of Jews and representatives of other European nations – had always been a great challenge for the Holy Father John Paul II. He not only asked “why”, but above all, he wondered what should be done to prevent this tragedy of man to happen again. He taught us how to pray for those who had died during the Second World War. But above all, he taught us how to pray to God for forgiveness and reconciliation. He remembered about the victims of Shoah. He cherished within his heart his friends from school and from the Jagiellonian University, priests and teachers, students and simple people, Christians and Jews; he remembered everybody. He entrusted millions of victims of totalitarian regimes in the West and in the East to the merciful God. He was aware that there remain ed a deep wound in the human heart which may be healed exclusively by the merciful God.
John Paul Il was convinced that in a mysterious way, understandable to men of deep faith, the sacrifice of innocent people will bring about salutary fruits. That is why he encouraged people to open their hearts to Christ – the Redeemer of man. In the suffering Christ, dying on the cross and then risen from the dead, he saw a hope for the humankind horrified by the cruelty of the holocaust. Looking at the Savior and those who had given testimony to His love, in the manner of St. Maximilian Maria Kolb e, he had the courage to speak about forgiveness and the possibility of loving anew.
Following in the footsteps of John Paul Il, the Holy Father Benedict XVI has also come to Auschwitz. Bending over the plaques commemorating the crimes of Nazism, he summoned all of us to ardent prayer: “And our cry to God must also be a cry that awakens within us God ‘s hidden presence – so that His power, the power He has planted in our hearts, will not be buried or choked within us by the mire of selfishness, pusillanimity, indifference or opportunism. Let us cry out to God, with all our hearts, at the present hour, when new misfortunes befall us, when all the forces of darkness seem to issue anew from human hearts: whether it is about the abuse of God ‘s name as a means of justifying senseless violence against innocent persons, or the cynicism which refuses to acknowledge God and ridicules faith in Him. Let us cry out to God, that He may draw men and women to conversion and help them see that violence does not bring peace, but only generates more violence – a morass of devastation in which everyone is ultimately the loser” (Benedict XVI, Address at the former concentration camp, 28 May 2006).
The Holy Father Benedict XVI visited the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim which was built thanks to the great support od God’s servant John Paul II. He encouraged us to continue the idea of his great Predecessor to create in Auschwitz a place of prayer and dialogue, where young people of Europe could meet and look into the future with courage.
As the Shepherd of the Cracow Church, I am extremely happy that the Foundation Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim undertakes numerous initiatives so as to enable young people of Europe to meet at retreats and seminars, and to discuss in groups what happened here, while at the same time learning respect for the victims and undertaking the challenges of the future with courage.
Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz, Krakow 29 June 2009
- Foreword of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Cracow Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz
- Holy Father John Paul II – Homily during the Holy Mass in the former extermination camp
- Holy Father Benedict XVI – Speech at the former concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau
- Fr. Jan Machniak – John Paul II and Benedict XVI in the former concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau
- Fr. Manfred Deselaers, Fr. Jan Nowak – The Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim