JERUSALEM (CNS): On his first day in Jerusalem, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and said the suffering of Jews under the Nazi extermination campaign must “never be denied, belittled or forgotten”.
The Pope called the Holocaust an atrocity that disgraced mankind, and said the Church was committed to working tirelessly “to ensure that hatred will never reign in the hearts of men again”.
With his head bowed and his hands folded, the 82-year-old pope prayed silently before an eternal flame in the Hall of Remembrance, a stone monument to the six million Jews killed in World War II.
He stood in the tent-shaped structure, where the names of some of the Nazi death camps are inscribed in the floor, as a prayer was recited for the victims, the resistance fighters and those who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis.
In a brief talk, Pope Benedict said he had come “to stand in silence before this monument, erected to honour the memory of the millions of Jews killed in the horrific tragedy of the Shoah”.
Pope Benedict’s May 11 visit to the memorial came after a period of Catholic-Jewish tension, following the Pope’s lifting of the excommunication of a traditionalist bishop who publicly minimised the extent of the Holocaust.
After sharp criticism from Jewish and other leaders, the Pope reaffirmed his dedication to improving Catholic-Jewish ties.
The visit was part of the Pope’s eight-day Holy Land pilgrimage.