Pope Francis says while visiting the former Auschwitz and Birkenau Nazi death camps in Poland he reflected on today’s cruelties in “this world sick with cruelty, violence and suffering.”
In recounting his visit to Poland last week, he told pilgrims at the Vatican for the Pontiff’s general audience on Wednesday that while seeing the camps, he thought that even though today’s cruelties aren’t as concentrated as those practiced at the Nazi facilities, they’re similar in sense of suffering.
He recounted how in “in that great silence I prayed for all the victims of violence and war.”
Visiting the museum and memorial, he says, helped him understand “more than ever the value of memory.” That value, for him, consists not only in remembering past events but as a “warning and responsibility for today and tomorrow.”
Pope Francis went on to suggest that in a world traumatised by war, young people gathered for World Youth Day in Kraków, Poland, gave strong signs of hope and brotherhood, reports Catholic News Service.
World Youth Day was a “prophetic sign for Poland and Europe” and took on a “global dimension” in a world threatened by a war fought in pieces, the pontiff continued.
“Precisely in this world at war, we need brotherhood, we need closeness, we need dialogue, and we need friendship. And this is the sign of hope: when there is brotherhood,” he said.
The Pope entered the Paul VI audience hall greeted by thousands of pilgrims reaching out to him, asking him to bless their religious articles, kiss their babies or receive their gifts. But one gift stopped the Pope in his tracks: a pope doll.
Pope Francis pointed to the doll and to himself, not completely convinced of the similarity, and then laughed, thanking the pilgrim for her present.
Before taking his place on the stage, the Pope greeted Rabbi Alejandro Avruj, an old friend from Argentina seated in the front row. Also present were bishops and pilgrims from Panama, the country Pope Francis announced would host World Youth Day 2019.
In addition, a group of 65 young refugees from Eritrea and Syria came to see the Pope. According to the Vatican, the children are from the Centre for Asylum Seekers at Castelnuovo di Porto, about 15 miles north of Rome. The Pope greeted them and posed for a group photo after the audience.
In his main audience talk, Pope Francis reflected on his visit to Kraków from July 27-31 to join hundreds of thousands of young people from across the globe who met to celebrate their faith and who answered the call to “go forth together, to build bridges of brotherhood,” he said.
“They also came with their wounds, with their questions but, above all, with the joy of meeting each other,” the Pope said.
Despite language barriers, he said, the youths were able to understand each other, creating a “mosaic of brotherhood” that is “emblematic of World Youth Day.”