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Pope visits Holocaust memorial: ‘what made you fall to such depths?’

Catholic World News - May 26, 2014

On the final day of his Holy Land pilgrimage, Pope Francis visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial.

Pope Francis also made an unscheduled visit to a memorial to victims of terrorism and prayed at the Western Wall, where he left the Spanish text of the Our Father in a crack.

At Yad Vashem, the Pope also kissed the hands of a half dozen Holocaust survivors, according to the Associated Press.

“The Catholic people who saved me and risked the lives of their whole families to save me, they are looking down today and proud to see me meet the leader of their faith,” said Joseph Gottdenker, one of the survivors.

The Pope began his address at Yad Vashem by reflecting on the words of God in the Garden of Eden:

“Adam, where are you?” (cf. Gen 3:9). Where are you, o man? What have you come to? In this place, this memorial of the Shoah, we hear God’s question echo once more: “Adam, where are you?” This question is charged with all the sorrow of a Father who has lost his child. The Father knew the risk of freedom; he knew that his children could be lost… yet perhaps not even the Father could imagine so great a fall, so profound an abyss! Here, before the boundless tragedy of the Holocaust, that cry – “Where are you?” – echoes like a faint voice in an unfathomable abyss…

Adam, who are you? I no longer recognize you. Who are you, o man? What have you become? Of what horror have you been capable? What made you fall to such depths?

Certainly it is not the dust of the earth from which you were made. The dust of the earth is something good, the work of my hands. Certainly it is not the breath of life which I breathed into you. That breath comes from me, and it is something good (cf. Gen 2:7).

No, this abyss is not merely the work of your own hands, your own heart… Who corrupted you? Who disfigured you? Who led you to presume that you are the master of good and evil? Who convinced you that you were god? Not only did you torture and kill your brothers and sisters, but you sacrificed them to yourself, because you made yourself a god.

The Pope then prayed for mercy.

“Almighty Lord, a soul in anguish cries out to you,” he said. “Hear, Lord, and have mercy! We have sinned against you. You reign for ever (cf. Bar 3:1-2). Remember us in your mercy. Grant us the grace to be ashamed of what we men have done, to be ashamed of this massive idolatry, of having despised and destroyed our own flesh which you formed from the earth, to which you gave life with your own breath of life. Never again, Lord, never again!”

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