- Pope Francis is in Poland to commemorate the nation’s 1,050 year of Christianity
- On the third day of his visit, the Pope went to Auschwitz-Birkenau to offer silent prayers and to meet with some elderly survivors
- More than 70 years after the Holocaust, the Pope is calling for mercy and compassion towards our neighbors
Pope Francis, on the third day of his visit to Poland, took the time to go around the World War II concentration and extermination camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was in the Auschwitz death camp that 1.1 million people were killed, most of them Jews, during the Holocaust in the 1940s.
The Nazi regime established the Auschwitz concentration complex, a compound made up of three main camps, 37 miles west of Krakow, near the pre-war German-Polish border in Upper Silesia. Nazi Germany had annexed the area in 1939 after they invaded and conquered Poland.
The compound was the largest of its kind, and all of the three camps used prisoners for forced labor. One of the camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau, functioned for an extended period as a killing center where gas chambers were located. It is recorded that 22 different nationalities were victims of the Holocaust.
Pope Francis is the third Pope to visit the former death camp, after Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II. The Argentine Pope is on a five-day trip to Poland, in commemoration of Poland's 1,050 year of adoption of Christianity.
During his visit, Pope Francis walked through the main gate of Auschwitz, under its infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” inscription (the phrase stands for “work makes you free”). The Pope walked the grounds alone and in contemplation, and is believed to have offered silent prayers during his stroll.
The Pope also met some elderly survivors of the camp, giving them a gentle kiss on the cheek and speaking to them softly. At the Death Wall where prisoners were executed via shooting by the Nazis, the Pope offered a candle.
Pope Francis also stopped to pray at the prison cell of Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Catholic friar who sacrificed his life in 1941 in order to save another man who was sentenced to death via starvation by the Nazis. Reports reveal that Pope Francis knelt for many minutes in the underground cell, illuminated only by the light from a tiny window.
During a World Youth Day rally in the southern city of Krakow on Thursday, the Pope urged compassion for migrants, saying: "A merciful heart opens up to welcome refugees and migrants." -KJ, Kami Media