01/27/2005, 00.00
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Holocaust, a permanent stain on the history of humanity, says the Pope

Let what happened be a lesson about those ideologies that justify contempt for human dignity on the basis of race, colour, language or religion.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – "No one is permitted to pass by the tragedy of the Shoah", "a crime which will for ever darken the history of humanity", a manifestation of the mystery of evil that can neither be denied or forgotten. So writes Pope John Paul II in his message commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the prisoners of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, a message in which he joins his personal recollections of his visits, as Pontiff, to the same camp in 1979, and to Yad Vashem—the memorial to the Shoah—and the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem in 2000, a message in which he appeals "to those who would resort, in the name of religion, to acts of oppression and terrorism" and to everyone not to yield "to ideologies which justify contempt for human dignity on the basis of race, colour, language or religion".

"This anniversary," the Pope writes, "calls us to ponder once again the drama which took place there, the final, tragic outcome of a programme of hatred. In these days we must remember the millions of persons who, through no fault of their own, were forced to endure inhuman suffering and extermination in the gas chambers and ovens. I bow my head before all those who experienced this manifestation of the mysterium iniquitatis".

The Holy Father goes on to remember how, during his 1979 visit to Auschwitz, he stood before the Hebrew inscription on the monument dedicated to the victims and said: "This, the very people that received from God the commandment, 'You shall not kill,' itself experienced in a special measure what killing means. No one is permitted to pass by this inscription with indifference.

"Today I repeat those words. No one is permitted to pass by the tragedy of the Shoah. That attempt at the systematic destruction of an entire people falls like a shadow on the history of Europe and the whole world; it is a crime which will for ever darken the history of humanity. May it serve, today and for the future, as a warning: there must be no yielding to ideologies which justify contempt for human dignity on the basis of race, colour, language or religion. I make this appeal to everyone, and particularly to those who would resort, in the name of religion, to acts of oppression and terrorism".

Always speaking about his 1979 visit, the Pope remembered "stopping to reflect before two other inscriptions, written in Russian and in Romani. The history of the Soviet Union's role in that war was complex, yet it must not be forgotten that in it the Russians had the highest number of those who tragically lost their lives. The Roma were also doomed to total extermination in Hitler's plan. One cannot underestimate the sacrifice of life which was imposed on these, our brothers and sisters, in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. For this reason, I insist once more that no one is permitted to pass by those inscriptions with indifference."

"I also said that one should halt before every one of the inscriptions. I myself did so, passing in prayerful meditation from one to the next, and commending to the Divine Mercy all the victims from all those nations which experienced the atrocities of the war. I also prayed that, through their intercession, the gift of peace would be granted to our world. I continue to pray unceasingly, trusting that everywhere, in the end, there will prevail respect for the dignity of the human person and for the right of every man and women to seek the truth in freedom, to follow the moral law, to discharge the duties imposed by justice and to lead a fully human life".

Even in Auschwitz, John Paul II writes, "I cannot fail to recall that, in the midst of that unspeakable concentration of evil, there were also heroic examples of commitment to good. Certainly there were many persons who were willing, in spiritual freedom, to endure suffering and to show love, not only for their fellow prisoners, but also for their tormentors. Many did so out of love for God and for man; others in the name of the highest spiritual values. Their attitude bore clear witness to a truth which is often expressed in the Bible: even though man is capable of evil, and at times boundless evil, evil itself will never have the last word. In the very abyss of suffering, love can triumph. The witness to this love shown in Auschwitz must never be forgotten. It must never cease to rouse consciences, to resolve conflicts, to inspire the building of peace.

"Such, then, is the deepest meaning of this anniversary celebration. We remember the tragic sufferings of the victims not for the sake of reopening painful wounds or of stirring up sentiments of hatred and revenge, but rather in order to honour the dead, to acknowledge historical reality and above all to ensure that those terrible events will serve as a summons for the men and women of today to ever greater responsibility for our common history. Never again, in any part of the world, must others experience what was experienced by these men and women whom we have mourned for sixty years!"

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