Krakow, Poland, Jul 29, 2016 / 04:40 am
Pope Francis paid a solemn visit to the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps on Friday, where over a million people are believed to have lost their lives. At the memorials, he gave no speech and prayed in silence, but instead wrote in the guest book two simple lines begging for God's mercy and forgiveness.
"Lord have mercy on your people! Lord, forgiveness for so much cruelty!" the Pope wrote in the “Memory Book” shortly after praying in the darkened cell of St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Catholic priest martyred in Auschwitz.
The July 29 Papal visit was made to two out of the three main Auschwitz camps, where as many as 1.5 million people are believed to have died under the Nazi regime.
The pontiff's day began with a stop at the original camp (known as Auschwitz I), where he prayed for several minutes in silence in the courtyard of the complex.
He was then taken by car to the camp's infamous Block 11 building. There, he was welcomed by Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo. He then individually greeted a group of ten men and women who had survived the Holocaust.
The Pope was given a candle which he used to light a bronze lamp at the site. The lamp, which contains images of the Auschwitz fence line, as well as the Heart of Jesus, was his gift to the Auschwitz museum.
The pontiff then entered the Block 11 – a brick building where prisoners were tortured – and briefly visited the various rooms. He stopped for a lengthy period of time to pray in St. Maximilian Kolbe's cell.