Pope Francis is set to visit Auschwitz during his historic visit to Poland this summer, writes Justin Cohen.
Key players in Christian-Jewish dialogue have confirmed plans for the pontiff to pay his respects to the victims of the Holocaust at the notorious site.
It has already been announced that the Pope – who next week will visit Rome’s main synagogue –will travel to Krakow in July for World youth Day, though a full programme has yet to be released.
Papal knight Rabbi David Rosen, director of interreligious affairs at the American Jewish committee, told Jewish News: “This will be an important moment when Pope Francis follows in the footsteps of his predecessors, paying homage to the victims of the Shoah and reaffirming the Catholic church’s unequivocal condemnation of anti-Semitism. Pope Francis has personally stated that it is impossible to be an anti-Semite and be a true Christian.”
Ed Kessler, founding director of the Woolf institute, said: “The Pope’s visit demonstrates to Jews around the world his commitment to a hopeful future whilst acknowledging a past of despair.”
Last April, the Pope decried the Allies failure to act on intelligence during the War and bomb the railway to the camp. ”The great powers had photographs of the railway routes that the trains took to the concentration camps, like Auschwitz, to kill the Jews, and also the Christians, and also the Roma, also the homosexuals,” Pope Francis said. “Tell me, why didn’t they bomb” those railroad routes?”
Jonny Daniels, founder of From the Depths, which works in Poland to preserve the memory of the Shoah, said: “This visit is a strong signal against anti-Semitism that we are seeing too often in Europe.”
News of the visit – which comes a decade after German-born Pope Benedict XVI bombed the route – comes only weeks after the 50th anniversary of the Nostra Aetate document which paved the way for improved relations between the Vatican and the Jewish community.
In a further sign of positive relations, the Vatican released a document last month saying Catholics should not try to convert Jews. “In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.”