Sunday, May 28, 2006

Holy Father at Auschwitz ... Rainbow Appears

Barely had this news come to my attention when the main stream media covered the event in its news or so it seemed.

The visit to Auschwitz was not originally on the schedule of events planned for the papal trip to Poland, Navarro-Valls told reporters. But Pope Benedict insisted on adding the stop. "I want to go to Auschwitz," the Pope said, according to Navarro-Valls; "I can't not go there."

Answering a reporter's question, the Holy Father said that he goes as a Catholic, not as a German. But others, speaking on the subject added more...

Speaking to reporters in Warsaw, Cardinal Walter Kasper (bio - news) agreed that the trip to Auschwitz will be powerfully symbolic, carrying great importance for Christians as well as Jews. The fact that the Pope is German adds to the significance of the event, he noted.

Cardinal Kasper said that it is difficult to explain the impact of a trip to the most famous Nazi concentration camp. "You cannot forget the past," he said; "it is not permissible to forget such a thing. But you can be conscious of it, so as to be attentive for the future."

In looking for the photo that they had on the news, showing this part of his visit there, but found a short series of them here.

And this story goes into much more detail of the actual event.

Benedict afterwards descended into the bowels of the grim barracks to pray before a lighted candle in the cell where Catholic priest Maximilian Kolbe died in 1941. Kolbe had offered to take the place of a prisoner whom the Nazis had sentenced to death by starvation.

A rainbow broke through a leaden sky as Benedict, an aide holding an umbrella over his head, later paused before each of the 22 plaques at the Birkenau annex’s International Monument to the Victims of Fascism.


Blogger Gimli's Friend said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Sunday, May 28, 2006 at 10:21:00 PM CDT  
Blogger contratimes said...

Dear WI,

It was moving to see the Pope at Auschwitz. And I must say that the photographer in your post's photo nailed a wonderful image. THAT is what photojournalists do: they quickly combine elements that tell a powerful story. The picture is nothing without the barbed wire: It gives a sense of place and purpose, and it screams crown of thorns. But, of course, the rainbow is about promise; and I pray the Pope is all about peace, grace and the ministry of reconciliation. Indeed, I know he is.

When the Pope entered the gas chambers at Auschwitz, for a moment I resented the presence of cameras: I hate to think that all of what the Holy Father represents could be seen as mere photo op. There was, for me, something that demanded privacy and isolation when he was in the final place of life for so many people. But, then there is the rainbow, the Pope, the barbed wire, the distant crowd, and I return to enjoying the power of the camera.

It's a tough thing, this camera-in-your-face world in which we live. Imagine Christ on the Cross today: Camera crews, satellite antennas, microphone booms pressed towards His face, generators abuzz, helicopters over head. I am glad that Christ did not choose to make His first appearance today, because I think many people can only see images two dimensionally, and, as we know, Jesus is more dimensional than any other character we've ever known.

I, too, am a German (mostly), though my branch of the family left Germany around 1900. But there were Gnades who murdered Jews. One distant cousin (I assume), a Capt. Ludwig Gnade in Police Battalion 101, is responsible for the death of at least 1400 Jews in Lomazy, Poland -- in one day. So I wish that I could atone for, or make peace with, what my name meant to millions of German-speaking Jews. I have written a poem about this: The Jews must have cried out for mercy. In Lomazy, many shot, wounded men cried out for "mercy shots", left as they were in a pit to die. What word did they cry out? Gnadenschussen. Mercy shots. And countless mothers and fathers throughout the Holocaust must've begged for mercy, for gnade.

It is a haunting thought for me.

All this to say, I understand the Holy Father a little bit when he says how hard it is to stand at Auschwitz as a German Christian.


B. Gnade

Sunday, May 28, 2006 at 10:32:00 PM CDT  
Blogger WICatholic said...


... I loved what you wrote here, and am glad that you decided not to remove it after all!!

I am sure that Mercy WAS cried out for by many...and a few may have found it in places remote. It was one of the most unmerciful periods of time that there has been.

As for the photo... I was looking for a different one, and could not find even one WITH the rainbow in it til I found this one, and YES, the barbed wire does add an entire dimension to it. I was in a hurry, and had not had time to really look at the picture. It speaks volumes.

My family (the German side) left in the mid 1800's. But I am also sure that there are distant relatives there, too. It is part of the reason I have done so much reading on this period of history ... not understanding what it was about my ancestors that could have led to this. (And also what made me realize that it is NOT ended yet... that spirit of evil has followed the Grand Mufti and continues...)

The symbol of the rainbow in the Old Testament is that it sealed God's promise to never destroy the earth again by flood. The prayers and the desires of so many after WWII has always been expressed by the words "Never Again". Hence, the rainbow that appeared seemed to say God has heard those cries...

Yet I watch today's news, know what I know of the followers of the Grand Mufti, see the martyrs around the world this past century (or even the past sixty years)...and I see a danger of an even worse evil coming if people don't wake up soon.

God bless!

Sunday, May 28, 2006 at 11:08:00 PM CDT  

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