Affirms Compassion for Holocaust Victims

The Catholic Church feels “deep compassion” for the victims of the Holocaust, just as it “draws close” to all those who still suffer persecution because of race, religion or other motives, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this today when he visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, rekindling the memorial flame and laying a wreath of yellow and white flowers at the site.

“I have come to stand in silence before this monument, erected to honor the memory of the millions of Jews killed in the horrific tragedy of the Shoah. They lost their lives, but they will never lose their names: These are indelibly etched in the hearts of their loved ones, their surviving fellow prisoners, and all those determined never to allow such an atrocity to disgrace mankind again. Most of all, their names are forever fixed in the memory of Almighty God,” the Holy Father said.

In a solemn ceremony attended by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Parliament speaker Reuven Rivlin, the Pontiff met with Holocaust survivors, pausing for a few minutes with each one as they spoke with him in spontaneous dialogues.

“May the names of these victims never perish,” Benedict XVI said. “May their suffering never be denied, belittled or forgotten! And may all people of goodwill remain vigilant in rooting out from the heart of man anything that could lead to tragedies such as this.”

Persecuted today

The Bishop of Rome affirmed that the Church “feels deep compassion for the victims remembered here.”

And he added: “Similarly, she draws close to all those who today are subjected to persecution on account of race, color, condition of life or religion — their sufferings are hers, and hers is their hope for justice.

“As Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, I reaffirm — like my predecessors — that the Church is committed to praying and working tirelessly to ensure that hatred will never reign in the hearts of men again. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the God of peace.”

The Holy Father was given a facsimile of a work of art by Felix Nussbaum, called “Camp Synagogue, 1941.” And his address added to the somberness of the event.

He said, “Gazing upon the faces reflected in the pool that lies in stillness within this memorial, one cannot help but recall how each of them bears a name. I can only imagine the joyful expectation of their parents as they anxiously awaited the birth of their children. What name shall we give this child? What is to become of him or her? Who could have imagined that they would be condemned to such a deplorable fate!”

Benedict XVI concluded with words from the Book of Lamentations, offering a message of hope, with which he also signed the book of remembrance: “The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent.”