Pope Francis paid a somber visit to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp, on Friday, becoming the third pontiff to visit the site where over 1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed.
The Pope lit a memorial candle and also met Holocaust survivors along with 25 Polish people who risked their lives to hide Jews from the Nazis. These non-Jews are among the many recognized by Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum as being “Righteous Among the Nations”.
His visit, the third by a pope, is an important statement since Pope Francis is, in several respects, removed from the horrors of Word War II. He is Argentinian, the first non-European Pope, and was not alive during the war. This visit to Poland marks the third day of his trip to Poland and was intended to commemorate 1,050 years since the country adopted Christianity.
Pope Francis praying at the execution wall on the yard of Block 11 of the former Auschwitz I camp. pic.twitter.com/rWB4tKm07N
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) July 29, 2016
Pope John Paul II, former archbishop of Krakow, visited Auschwitz in 1979. It was the first visit of its kind and was part of the Vatican’s efforts at reconciliation with Jews. Pope Benedict XVI, who visited in 2006, was a German who served in the Hitler Youth for a time as a teenager.