Pope on Holocaust atrocities: Let’s all say ‘never again’

A day before the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation, Francis tells Catholics that remembering the genocide ‘is a duty’

File: Pope Francis does the sign of the cross during his weekly general audience, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, May 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
File: Pope Francis does the sign of the cross during his weekly general audience, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, May 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Pope Francis urged Catholics on Sunday to engage in prayer and reflection about the “huge tragedy, this atrocity” of the Holocaust, in a public speech ahead of Monday’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

He called on people to vow in their heart, “Never again.”

In remarks to the public in St. Peter’s Square, Francis noted that Monday was also the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

He said that “in the face of this huge tragedy, this atrocity, indifference is not admissible and memory is a duty.”

He added: “Tomorrow we are all invited to take a moment for prayer and for reflection, each one saying in one’s own heart: Never again, never again!”

Pope Francis approaches his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square to deliver the Angelus noon prayer at the Vatican, January 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

The pope himself prayed on the camp’s memorial grounds during a 2016 pilgrimage to Poland.

Francis has referred repeatedly to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust over the past week, in the lead-up to the international day of commemoration on January 27.

Last week in a meeting with a delegation from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization that fights Jew-hatred, Francis decried the recent “barbaric resurgence of anti-Semitism,” and said that populism provides a fertile terrain where “hate rapidly grows.”

Much of Europe, where populist parties have gained traction, has seen an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents.

Francis said that by encouraging integration and mutual understanding, hatred can be countered.

Pope Francis prays in front of a memorial at the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Oswiecim, Poland, July 29, 2016. (L’Osservatore Romano/Pool photo via AP)

He added: “I’ll never tire of firmly condemning every form of anti-Semitism.”

In November, Francis denounced the “inhuman, un-Christian” rebirth of anti-Semitism, lamenting its resurgence, after the world thought the “brutalities” of the Holocaust were over.

And over the weekend, Europe’s Catholic bishops denounced anti-Semitism and the “manipulation” of the truth for political aims.

Their statement, which was also released in a Hebrew version, comes amid a rise in Holocaust denial and other forms of historical whitewashing.

The bishops did not single out any specific case of historical manipulation. Instead, they called for prayers and for candles to be lit “for people murdered in death camps of all nationalities and religions.”

In this December 6, 2019, file photo, the sun lights the buildings behind the entrance of the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland. (Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

“On this anniversary, we appeal to the modern world for reconciliation and peace, for respect for each nation’s right to exist and to freedom, to independence, to maintain its own culture,” their statement said. “We cannot allow the truth to be ignored or manipulated for immediate political needs.”

The bishops described the power of Auschwitz as a symbol of the Nazi German horror, noting that the last three popes, St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis, have all visited the site of the former camp.

They also noted that communist totalitarianism — like Nazism — claimed millions of lives.

The statement was issued by the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences and the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union on behalf of the bishops of Europe.

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