.- Benedict XVI dedicated this morning's general audience to a special catechesis on his recently-concluded journey to Poland, "revisiting," together with the 35,000 faithful in St. Peter's Square, the various stages of his apostolic trip.
Recalling first his meeting with the clergy in Warsaw, he said, "My pilgrimage began under the sign of the priesthood. It continued with an expression of ecumenical solicitude in the Lutheran church of the Most Holy Trinity. On that occasion I reiterated my firm intention to consider the restoration of full visible unity among Christian as a priority of my ministry."
The Holy Father then went on to refer to "the solemn Eucharistic celebration" in Pilsudski Square, a place, he said, "that has now acquired a symbolic value, having hosted many historic events," including Masses celebrated by John Paul II, the funeral of Cardinal Wyszynski, and "mourning ceremonies in the days following the death of my predecessor."
The Pope then took a moment to remember his visits to the shrines "that marked the life of the priest and bishop, Karol Wojtyla:" Czestochowa, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, and Divine Mercy.
"I will never forget the visit to the famous Marian Shrine of Jasna Gora at Czestochowa, ... heart of the Polish nation," he said, "where I again presented the faith as a fundamental attitude of the spirit that involves the entire person. ... From the Virgin of Sorrows at the Shrine of Kalwaria ... I asked support for the faith of the ecclesial community in moments of trial and difficulty. The visit to the Shrine of Divine Mercy ... gave me the opportunity to highlight how Divine Mercy illuminates the mystery of man. In the nearby convent, ... St. Faustina Kowalska received a message of faith for humanity, echoed and interpreted by John Paul II."
The Pope also mentioned "other symbolic shrines" of his journey: Wadowice, birthplace of John Paul II, where lay "the roots of his robust faith, his sensitive and open humanity, his love for beauty and truth, his devotion to the Virgin, his love for the Church, and above all his vocation to sanctity;" and Wawel cathedral "where he celebrated his first Mass."
Referring to his meeting with young people in Krakow's Blonie Park, the Holy Father quoted a phrase his predecessor liked to repeat: "Stand firm in your faith." This, he added, "is the duty I left to the beloved children of Poland, encouraging them to persevere in their faithfulness to Christ and to the Church, that Europe and the world may not lack their evangelical witness. All Christians must feel the commitment to bear such witness,” the Pope continued, “so as to ensure that humanity in the third millennium may never again know horrors similar to those ... of the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau."
In places such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Holy Father went on, "the only response is the Cross of Christ: the Love that descended to the abyss of evil in order to save man at his very roots, where his freedom can rebel against God."
"He concluded: "May modern man never forget Auschwitz or the other 'factories of death' in which the Nazi regime sought to eliminate God and take His place. May he not be tempted to racial hatred, which is the origin of the worst forms of anti-Semitism. May he go back to recognizing that God is Father of all, and calls us all in Christ to build together a world of justice, truth and peace.
At the conclusion of his general audience the Holy Father said: "My thoughts go out to the beloved nation of East Timor, wracked by tension and violence which has caused victims and destruction. As I encourage the local Church and Catholic organizations to continue, together with other international organizations, their efforts to help those displaced, I invite you all to pray to the Most Holy Virgin that with her maternal protection she may sustain the efforts of the people working for the pacification of souls and the return of normality."