In a touching ceremony at the Holocaust Memorial this afternoon, Pope Benedict took another step in his efforts to reach out to the Jews by remembering those who died in the Shoah. The Holy Father also reiterated that the Catholic Church is committed to "praying and working tirelessly to ensure that hatred will never reign in the hearts of men again."
"I will give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name … I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off," with this verse from Isaiah Pope Benedict began his commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust.
"They lost their lives," he said, "but they will never lose their names: these are indelibly etched in the hearts of their loved ones, their surviving fellow prisoners, and all those determined never to allow such an atrocity to disgrace mankind again. Most of all, their names are forever fixed in the memory of Almighty God."
Noting the Scriptural significance of being given a name, the Pope said, "one can weave an insidious web of lies to convince others that certain groups are undeserving of respect. Yet, try as one might, one can never take away the name of a fellow human being."
The Holy Father then emphasized the Catholic Church, "committed to the teachings of Jesus and intent on imitating his love for all people, feels deep compassion for the victims remembered here."
He also added his own personal commitment as the Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, "to praying and working tirelessly to ensure that hatred will never reign in the hearts of men again. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the God of peace," he stated.
"As we stand here in silence, their cry still echoes in our hearts," the Pope said of the Holocaust victims. "It is a cry raised against every act of injustice and violence. It is a perpetual reproach against the spilling of innocent blood. It is the cry of Abel rising from the earth to the Almighty."
Bringing his reflection to an end, the Pope expressed his deep gratitude to "God and to you for the opportunity to stand here in silence: a silence to remember, a silence to pray, a silence to hope."
Prior to giving his speech, the Holy Father lit an "eternal flame" remembering the victims, and met six survivors of the Holocaust.