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Monday, May 29, 2006


VATICAN CITY, MAY 27, 2006 (VIS) - Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano sent a telegram of condolence, in the name of the Holy Father, for Saturday morning's earthquake on the island of Java in Indonesia, which killed thousands of people:

  "Deeply saddened to learn of the devastating earthquake near Yogyakarta, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI prays for the victims and their grieving families, invoking eternal peace upon the deceased and divine comfort and consolation on all who are suffering.

  "His Holiness likewise encourages the rescue workers and all involved in providing medical assistance to the victims of this disaster, to persevere in their efforts to bring relief and support."
TGR/EARTHQUAKE INDONESIA/SODANO                    VIS 20060529 (120)


VATICAN CITY, MAY 28, 2006 (VIS) - At the conclusion of the commemorative ceremony for the victims of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps, the Pope travelled by car to Krakow-Balice airport, where a brief final ceremony was held before his departure for Rome.

  Replying to an address from Lech Kaczynski, president of Poland, the Holy Father recalled that, four years ago, when John Paul II left his homeland for the last time, he called on the Polish nation "always to be guided by sentiments of mercy, fraternal solidarity, and dedication to the common good, and he expressed the firm conviction that in this way [Poland] would not only find her proper place within a united Europe, but would also enrich this continent and the whole world with her tradition.

  "Today," he went on, "as your presence in the family of European States is being constantly consolidated, I wish with my whole heart to repeat those words of hope. I ask you to remain faithful custodians of the Christian deposit, and to transmit it to future generations."

  Benedict XVI thanked the Poles for their prayers for him since the moment of his election as Peter's Successor, adding: "I would like you to continue to remember me in your prayers, asking the Lord to increase my strength in the service of the Universal Church."

  After thanking the president of the Republic of Poland, the civil and religious authorities, and everyone involved in the smooth running of his visit, the Pope concluded his remarks with the words of St. Paul: "Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love."

  The papal plane took off from Krakow at 9.50 p.m., arriving at Rome's Ciampino airport at 11.30 p.m. From there, the Pope travelled back to the Vatican by helicopter.
PV-POLAND/DEPARTURE/KRAKOW                        VIS 20060529 (320)


VATICAN CITY, MAY 28, 2006 (VIS) - This afternoon, Benedict XVI travelled by car from the archbishop's palace in Krakow to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps, on the last stage of his apostolic trip to Poland.

  The Pope walked into the Auschwitz concentration camp, passing under the words "Arbeit Macht Frei" (work makes you free) written over the gate. Once inside he was welcomed by the director of the Auschwitz Museum and by other civil and religious authorities. He visited the courtyard surrounding the Wall of Death, where prisoners used to be summarily executed, and met with former inmates. He also visited the cell where St. Maximilian Kolbe died, in the cellar of block 11.

  The Holy Father then travelled by car to the center for dialogue and prayer, a Catholic institution established near the camp, upon which he bestowed his apostolic blessing. Returning to his car, he journeyed three kilometers to the camp of Birkenau. Upon arriving there, the Pope first paused before the 22 bronze slabs that symbolically commemorate the victims of the Holocaust in the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. He also met with representatives of other religions and with a group of concentration camp survivors of various nationalities.

  The Pope prayed for the victims and listened to the Kaddish, the Hebrew prayer of mourning, before delivering his address:

  "To speak in this place of horror, in this place where unprecedented mass crimes were committed against God and man, is almost impossible - and it is particularly difficult and troubling for a Christian, for a Pope from Germany," said Benedict XVI.

  "In a place like this, words fail; in the end, there can only be a dread silence - a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did You remain silent? How could You tolerate all this? In silence, then, we bow our heads before the endless line of those who suffered and were put to death here; yet our silence becomes in turn a plea for forgiveness and reconciliation, a plea to the living God never to let this happen again."

  The Pope recalled the visit of John Paul II, who "came here as a son of that people which, along with the Jewish people, suffered most in this place and, in general, throughout the war. 'Six million Poles lost their lives during the Second World War: a fifth of the nation,' he reminded us. Here too he solemnly called for respect for human rights and the rights of nations."

  "John Paul II came here as a son of the Polish people. I come here today as a son of the German people. For this very reason, I can and must echo his words: I could not fail to come here. I had to come. It is a duty before the truth, and the just due of all who suffered here, a duty before God, for me to come here as the successor of John Paul II and as a son of the German people - a son of that people over which a ring of criminals rose to power by false promises of future greatness and the recovery of the nation's honor, prominence and prosperity, but also through terror and intimidation, with the result that our people was used and abused as an instrument of their thirst for destruction and power."

  "How many questions arise in this place!" the Holy Father cried. "Constantly the question comes up: Where was God in those days? ... How could He permit this endless slaughter, this triumph of evil? The words of Psalm 44 come to mind, ... This cry of anguish, which Israel raised to God in its suffering, at moments of deep distress, is also the cry for help raised by all those who in every age ... suffer for the love of God, for the love of truth and goodness."

  "We cannot peer into God's mysterious plan - we see only piecemeal, and we would be wrong to set ourselves up as judges of God and history. Then we would not be defending man, but only contributing to his downfall. No - when all is said and done, we must continue to cry out humbly yet insistently to God: ... Do not forget mankind, Your creature!"

  "Let us cry out to God, with all our hearts, at the present hour, when new misfortunes befall us, when all the forces of darkness seem to issue anew from human hearts: whether it is the abuse of God's name as a means of justifying senseless violence against innocent persons, or the cynicism which refuses to acknowledge God and ridicules faith in Him."

  "The place where we are standing is a place of memory, it is the place of the Shoah. The past is never simply the past. It always has something to say to us; it tells us the paths to take and the paths not to take. ... Some [of the] inscriptions [here] are pointed reminders. There is one in Hebrew. The rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people, to cancel it from the register of the peoples of the earth. ... If this people, by its very existence, was a witness to the God Who spoke to humanity and took us to Himself, then that God finally had to die and power had to belong to man alone - to those men, who thought that by force they had made themselves masters of the world."

  "Then there is the inscription in Polish. First and foremost they wanted to eliminate the cultural elite, thus erasing the Polish people as an autonomous historical subject and reducing it, to the extent that it continued to exist, to slavery. Another inscription offering a pointed reminder is the one written in the language of the Sinti and Roma people. Here too, the plan was to wipe out a whole people. ... There is also the inscription in Russian, which commemorates the tremendous loss of life endured by the Russian soldiers who combated the Nazi reign of terror; but this inscription also reminds us that their mission had a tragic twofold aim: by setting people free from one dictatorship, they were to submit them to another, that of Stalin and the communist system." The inscription in German serves as a reminder that "the Germans who had been brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau and met their death here were considered as ... the refuse of the nation."

  "Yes, behind these inscriptions is hidden the fate of countless human beings. They jar our memory, they touch our hearts. They have no desire to instill hatred in us: instead, they show us the terrifying effect of hatred. Their desire is to help our reason to see evil as evil and to reject it; their desire is to enkindle in us the courage to do good and to resist evil. They want to make us feel the sentiments expressed in the words that Sophocles placed on the lips of Antigone, as she contemplated the horror all around her: 'my nature is not to join in hate but to join in love'."
PV-POLAND/.../AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU                    VIS 20060529 (1200)


VATICAN CITY, MAY 28, 2006 (VIS) - This morning, two million people attended a Mass presided by Benedict XVI in Krakow's Blonie Park; the same place where, yesterday afternoon, he had met with young people. Polish cardinals and bishops, as well as members of the papal entourage, concelebrated with the Pope.

  A representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, Fr. Igor Vyzhanov, also participated in the Eucharistic celebration, conveying to the Pope the greeting of Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all the Russias.

  In his homily, the Holy Father referred to the recent Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord: "Here on earth," he said, "we are called to look up to heaven, to turn our minds and hearts to the inexpressible mystery of God. We are called to look towards this divine reality, to which we have been directed from our creation. For there we find life's ultimate meaning."

  After recalling how John Paul II used to celebrate Mass in the same park during his apostolic trips to his homeland, Benedict XVI said: "From here he could see Krakow and all Poland. ... Krakow, the city of Karol Wojtyla and of John Paul II, is also my Krakow! Krakow has a special place in the hearts of countless Christians throughout the world who know that John Paul II came to the Vatican Hill from this city, from Wawel Hill, 'from a far country,' which thus became a country dear to all."

  The Pope then indicated that he had wished to come to Poland and to Krakow "to breathe the air of [John Paul II's] homeland. I wanted to see the land where he was born, where he grew up and undertook his tireless service to Christ and the Universal Church. ... Here I wish to ask God to preserve that legacy of faith, hope and charity which John Paul II gave to the world, and to you in particular."

  Going on to refer to theme of his Polish pilgrimage, "Stand firm in your faith," the Holy Father pointed out that "faith is a deeply personal and human act, an act which has two aspects. To believe means first to accept as true what our mind cannot fully comprehend." Secondly, it means to "trust in a person, no ordinary person, but Jesus Christ Himself. What we believe is important, but even more important is the One in Whom we believe."

  "When Karol Wojtyla was elected to the See of Peter in order to serve the Universal Church, your land became a place of special witness to faith in Jesus Christ. You were called to give this witness before the whole world. This vocation of yours is always needed, and it is perhaps even more urgent than ever, now that the Servant of God has passed from this life. Do not deprive the world of this witness!"

  "Strengthened by faith in God, devote yourselves fervently to consolidating His Kingdom on earth, a Kingdom of goodness, justice, solidarity and mercy. I ask you to bear courageous witness to the Gospel before today's world, bringing hope to the poor, the suffering, the lost and abandoned, the desperate and those yearning for freedom, truth and peace. By doing good to your neighbor and showing your concern for the common good, you bear witness that God is love."

  Pope Benedict concluded his address by calling on the faithful "to share with the other peoples of Europe and the world the treasure of your faith, not least as a way of honoring the memory of your countryman, who, as the Successor of St. Peter, did this with extraordinary power and effectiveness."

  Following the Mass and before praying the "Regina Coeli," the Pope addressed some remarks to young people who, during his meeting with them yesterday, "expressed their adherence to Christ and to the Church.

  "Yesterday," he said, "you presented me with the gift of your book of testimonies: 'I do not take them, I am free of drugs.' I ask you now as your father: remain faithful to this promise. It is a question of your lives and your freedom. Do not let yourselves fall victim to this world's illusions."

  At the end of the ceremony, Benedict travelled by car to the archbishop's palace in Krakow where he had lunch. In the early afternoon, he bid farewell to the staff and collaborators of the archbishop, and to some of the members of the organizational committee of his visit.
PV-POLAND/MASS:REGINA COELI/KRAKOW                VIS 20060529 (750)


VATICAN CITY, MAY 27, 2006 (VIS) - This afternoon, having first visited Wawel cathedral in Krakow, the Holy Father travelled by popemobile to the city's Blonie Park - the site of many of John Paul II's celebrations in Krakow - where he met with young people.

  Following a greeting pronounced by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, and testimonies from a number of young people, the Pope delivered an address to the 1,000,000 strong crowd that had gathered in the park to hear him.

  "In the heart of every man," he began, "there is the desire for a house. Even more so in the young person's heart there is a great longing for a proper house, a stable house. ... There is a longing for a house you can be proud of. ... These longings are simply the desire for a full, happy and successful life. Do not be afraid of this desire! Do not run away from this desire! Do not be discouraged at the sight of crumbling houses, frustrated desires and faded longings. God the Creator, who inspires in young hearts an immense yearning for happiness, will not abandon you in the difficult construction of the house called life."

  "How do I build that house called life? Jesus ... encourages us to build on the rock. In fact, it is only in this way that the house will not crumble. But what does it mean to build a house on the rock? Building on the rock means, first of all, to build on Christ and with Christ." It means "to build on a foundation that is called 'crucified love'."

  Christ, Benedict XVI added, "knowing us better than we know ourselves, says to us: 'You are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you'." Building on the rock "means to build with Someone Who is always faithful, even when we are lacking in faith, because He cannot deny Himself; ... with Someone Who constantly looks down on the wounded heart of man and says: 'I do not condemn you, go and do not sin again.' ... Do not be afraid to lean on Christ! Long for Christ, as the foundation of your life!"

  To build on the rock, the Pope went on, also means "building on Someone Who was rejected," and he recalled St. Peter's description of Jesus "as a 'living stone rejected by men.' ... The undeniable fact of the election of Jesus by God does not conceal the mystery of evil, whereby man is able to reject Him Who has loved to the very end.  This rejection of Jesus ... extends throughout human history, even to our own time. ... Often, Jesus is ignored, ... He is declared a king of the past Who is not for today and certainly not for tomorrow. He is relegated to a storeroom of questions and persons one dare not mention publicly in a loud voice. If in the process of building the house of your life you encounter those who scorn the foundation on which you are building, do not be discouraged!  A strong faith must endure tests. ... Our faith in Jesus Christ ... must frequently face others' lack of faith."

  Yet to build on the rock, the Holy Father highlighted, also means "being aware that there will be misfortunes. ... Christ not only understands man's desire for a lasting house, but he is also fully aware of all that can wreck man's happiness. Do not be surprised therefore by misfortunes. ... An edifice built on the rock is not the same as a building removed from the forces of nature, which are inscribed in the mystery of man. To have built on rock means being able to count on the knowledge that at difficult times there is a reliable force upon which you can trust."

  "What does it mean to build on the rock?" the Pope asked again. "Building on the rock also means to build on Peter and with Peter. ... 'You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.' ... If Christ, the Rock, ... calls His Apostle 'rock,' it means that He wants Peter, and together with him the entire Church, to be a visible sign of the one Savior and Lord. ... Do not be fooled by those who want to play Christ against the Church. ... Young people, you know well the Rock of our times. Accordingly, do not forget that neither that Peter who is watching our gathering from the window of God the Father, nor this Peter who is now standing in front of you, nor any successive Peter will ever be opposed to you or the building of a lasting house on the rock."

  "The last word is a hopeful one," Pope Benedict concluded. "The fear of failure can at times frustrate even the most beautiful dreams. ... It can convince one that the yearning for such a house is only a childish aspiration and not a plan for life. ... You are all witnesses to hope, to that hope which is not afraid to build the house of one's own life because it is certain that it can count on the foundation that will never crumble: Jesus Christ our Lord."

  Having completed his address, the Pope gave the young people the "Flame of Mercy," as a symbol of their mission to carry the light of faith throughout the world, and blessed the first stone of the John Paul II Center.
PV-POLAND/YOUNG PEOPLE/BLONIE                    VIS 20060529 (930)

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