Benedict XVI at Yad Vashem

The Holy Father at Yad Vashem.

Present were President Shimon Peres, Speaker of the Knesset Reuven Rivlin, President of the  Council of "Yad Vashem" Rabbi Israel Meir Lau.   He lit a flame and left a wreath, met with survivors and signed the memorial book.

"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" (Is 56:5).

This passage from the Book of the prophet Isaiah furnishes the two simple words which solemnly express the profound significance of this revered place: yad – "memorial"; shem – "name". I have come to stand in silence before this monument, erected to honor the memory of the millions of Jews killed in the horrific tragedy of the Shoah. They lost their lives, 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.

One can rob a neighbor of possessions, opportunity or freedom. 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. [Unless you don't allow them to be born at all.  But of course they are known to God.]

Sacred Scripture teaches us the importance of names in conferring upon someone a unique mission or a special gift. God called Abram "Abraham" because he was to become the "father of many nations" (Gen 17:5). Jacob was called "Israel" because he had "contended with God and man and prevailed" (Gen 32:29). The names enshrined in this hallowed monument will forever hold a sacred place among the countless descendants of Abraham. Like his, their faith was tested. Like Jacob, they were immersed in the struggle to discern the designs of the Almighty. May the names of these victims never perish! May their suffering never be denied, belittled or forgotten! And may all people of goodwill remain vigilant in rooting out from the heart of man anything that could lead to tragedies such as this!

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. Similarly, she draws close to all those who today are subjected to persecution on account of race, color, condition of life or religion – their sufferings are hers, and hers is their hope for justice. As Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, I reaffirm – like my predecessors – that the Church is committed 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 (cf. Ps 85:9).

The Scriptures teach that it is our task to remind the world that this God lives, even though we sometimes find it difficult to grasp his mysterious and inscrutable ways. He has revealed himself and continues to work in human history. He alone governs the world with righteousness and judges all peoples with fairness (cf. Ps 9:9).

Gazing upon the faces reflected in the pool that lies in stillness within this memorial, one cannot help but recall how each of them bears a name. I can only imagine the joyful expectation of their parents as they anxiously awaited the birth of their children. What name shall we give this child? What is to become of him or her? Who could have imagined that they would be condemned to such a deplorable fate!

As we stand here in silence, their cry still echoes in our hearts. 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. Professing our steadfast trust in God, we give voice to that cry using words from the Book of Lamentations which are full of significance for both Jews and Christians:

"The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent;
They are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness.
My portion is the Lord, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
Good is the Lord to the one who waits for him, to the soul that seeks him;
It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord" (Lam 3:22-26).

My dear friends, I am deeply grateful 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.

 

* * *

The phrase he put in the memorial book:

"‘His mercies are not spent.’
(The Book of Lamentations 3:22)
Benedictus PP. XVI".

[00720-02.01] [Original text: English]

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25 Responses to Benedict XVI at Yad Vashem

  1. Victoria says:

    I know that the MSN would have been in meltdown if the pope hadn’t gone to Yad Vashem but what about the vile things about Pope Pius XII in that museum? Doesn’t it look as if the pope is giving tacit approval to the calumnies against Pius XII?

  2. Mike Morrow says:

    I entered parochial school and really began learning the Catholic faith when Pius XII was Pope. Doubtless it is his fate to forever bear the undeserved negative aspersions cast upon his reign. Doubtless little can be done to change the “accepted truth” of accusers.

    I consider Pius XII and Benedict XVI to be the greatest Popes of many centuries. I can’t adequately express the admiration that I have of our Benedict XVI. May he have the longest reign in the history of the Papacy.

  3. Brendan says:

    Everything the Holy Father says is beautiful.

    One question though: why would he speak in English?

  4. Geoffrey says:

    “One question though: why would he speak in English?”

    Because His Holiness does not speak fluent Hebrew or Arabic, and English is the unofficial second language of many places, especially Israel and Jordan, so it makes more sense to use English rather than Italian or even French… lucky for us watching on EWTN and CTV! :-)

  5. Matt Q says:

    Victoria wrote:

    “I know that the MSN would have been in meltdown if the pope hadn’t gone to Yad Vashem but what about the vile things about Pope Pius XII in that museum? Doesn’t it look as if the pope is giving tacit approval to the calumnies against Pius XII?”

    )(

    It’s less approval as it political diplomacy. It’s a big-deal place for them and so the Holy Father makes an appearence there for the sake of what it is. There’s something about it though which gives me the impression there is an in-your-face tone to it all. Who knows.

    =====

    Mike Morrow wrote:

    “I entered parochial school and really began learning the Catholic faith when Pius XII was Pope. Doubtless it is his fate to forever bear the undeserved negative aspersions cast upon his reign. Doubtless little can be done to change the “accepted truth” of accusers.

    I consider Pius XII and Benedict XVI to be the greatest Popes of many centuries. I can’t adequately express the admiration that I have of our Benedict XVI. May he have the longest reign in the history of the Papacy.

    )(

    Mike, your sentiments are felt by a great many of us also.

    Regarding the negative aspersions on Pope Pius XII however, it isn’t fate. It’s a bunch of vicious, self-centered people who just want to promote their own self-interest at the expense of another. To hang on to a silly idea when it’s proven Pope Pius acted courageously in spite of such great and harrowing odds, it’s just plain selfishness not to let it go.

  6. Andrew, medievalist says:

    It’s brilliant that the Holy Father went to Yad Vashem because it’s one of the few places where the MSM will actually get a chance to hear him speak and broadcast it (even the BBC recorded 3/4 of the message). And when the wider world hears Pope Benedict directly, rather than reports of what he said, opinions will change; people will realise what a pastor he is and, hopefully, cast aside any erroneous biases they have against him. Benedict is a master wordsmith and hearing him, like hearing Peter, changes people.

  7. Ellen says:

    I remember that for years and years Pius XII was lauded as a friend to the Jewish people and a hero of the Holocaust. Then Rolf Hohchhuth wrote the play The Deputy and everything changed. Pius XII was a deep dyed villain and anti-Semite. I still can’t quite understand how that one play seemed to change everything.

  8. Temple_U_Staff says:

    I’m sorry to see this discussion devolve into questions of motives and the MSM. In all honesty: who really cares? What matters about the Holy Father’s visit are the eloquent words that he left behind. That’s. it. If the Holy Father didn’t impugn the motives or politics of those who accompanied him to Yad Vashem, why on Earth should the people on this forum do it on his behalf? That’s not to excuse anything, but merely to suggest that the Holy Father knows what he’s doing better than any of us. As for me, I’m going to pass on the opportunity to comment on Pius XII and instead spend the next couple of days contemplating this:

    “Gazing upon the faces reflected in the pool that lies in stillness within this memorial, one cannot help but recall how each of them bears a name. I can only imagine the joyful expectation of their parents as they anxiously awaited the birth of their children. What name shall we give this child? What is to become of him or her? Who could have imagined that they would be condemned to such a deplorable fate!

    As we stand here in silence, their cry still echoes in our hearts. 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.”

  9. Humilitas says:

    The Holy Fathers beautiful statement at Yad Vashem still was not enough. If you have an opportunity to go to the Jerusalem Post website, you will see that they were disapointed that the Holy Father did not apologize to the Jewish people. There are some very derogatory comments about his being German and his part in the Nazi youth movement. Even though he explained his time in the youth movement many times in the past, and the fact that he deserted the German army during the war, it was still brought up by the reporters at the Jerusalem Post.
    God bless our Holy Father
    Ad Multos Anos!

  10. Terth says:

    Wasn’t this the place where the head rabbi said he wouldn’t allow the Holy Father (or anyone else) to wear a pectoral cross? It looks like they are.

  11. GOR says:

    Some people will never be satisfied. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin immediately blasted the Holy Father for not apologizing for the Holocaust and the Nazis, saying he “was part of them”. Fr. Lombardi defended him pointing out that Pope Benedict had already mentioned this in Cologne and Auschwitz in the past.

    But you can never please everyone and it is fruitless to try. The Holy Father sounded the right note with his words – but people need to be amenable to reason to appreciate them.

  12. Maureen says:

    Re: pectoral cross

    No, that was the Wailing Wall — the last standing wall of the Temple. A later visit.

    Re: the aspersions against Pope Pius XII

    God knows the truth about it. Indeed, you could read the Pope’s speech as implying this, although he’s too nice to say anything about it. (Romanitas.) There will be other times to argue; let him pick the useful times.

  13. Barnabas says:

    As much as I admired the Holy Father’s speech, after reading this article, I wonder why the pope even bothered:

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1242029498309&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

    These people have their heads stuck so far down in the mud that nothing the pope does will make them happy.

  14. Temple_U_Staff says:

    Barnabas – Careful in referring to “these people.” My guess is that the Jerusalem Post no more represents mainstream Jewish opinion than America represents mainstream Catholic opinion. The Pope wasn’t speaking to the media in his prayer; please, read it more carefully.

    I think Maureen’s comment is well-put: “There will be other times to argue; let him pick the useful times.”

    The visit to Yad Vashem was moving and beautiful. Why make it anything else?

  15. TNCath says:

    Unfortunately, anytime the Pope ever speaks there will always be some group that will never be satisfied. Unfortunately, short of a miracle, the Jews will never put the Holocaust behind them nor will there ever be peace in the Middle East. The Holy Father has done all he can.

  16. irishgirl says:

    TNCath-you’re absolutely right.

    Some people are never satisfied…..

    It grates on my nerves when the Holy Father is labeled a Nazi….grrrr!

  17. Girgadis says:

    The Holy Father does not owe anyone in Israel an apology. Maybe those Israelis
    who are always so quick to criticize the Pope should get their own house in
    order first. When is the last time the Knesset speaker apologized to Lebanese
    Christians for his country’s destructive incursions into theirs? When will he
    apologize for the apartheid practiced in his country toward Palestinians? The
    belief among some in Israel that Jewish lives should be valued more highly than
    Christian and Muslim lives, and at all costs, is staggering to me. I should
    point out that it is not a view universally held by all Jewish people, including
    many who live in Israel. God bless Pope Benedict XVI and enlighten those who
    would condemn him.

  18. J. Basil Damukaitis says:

    Benedictus PP: What does the “PP” stand for?

  19. Christopher_Olsen says:

    TNCath wrote: “Unfortunately, short of a miracle, the Jews will never put the Holocaust behind them …”

    What a vile and ignorant comment! And so totally at odds with the purpose of the Pope’s visit to Yad Vashem.

    I think it would behoove some of the more enraged commentators here to take a deep breath and distinguish between those Israeli and Jewish leaders with whom they disagree, and the entire diverse community of Jews in Israel and elsewhere. This is an ugly path, and one that this Pope and the prior one tried to steer us from. That some leaders in the Jewish community may not agree with that approach IS NOT justification for us to lash out at Jews in general, much less encourage them to put the Holocause “behind them.” For shame. To this day, there are tens of thousands of survivors of that event, and the Pope showed true humility in offering remembrance to their extinguished relatives. We could at least show the same level of respect.

    I’m really aghast at the tone displayed around here. This is uncalled for. We are better than this.

  20. Maureen says:

    Re: PP

    I think Fr. Z did a post on the PP abbreviation that popes use to sign stuff. There are apparently various schools of thought as to which Latin word/s it abbreviates.

    Re: Jewish reaction

    Actually, I think those comments weren’t as bad as they might have been. Jewish people are not raised to be uncritical of speech, and you haven’t lived until you’ve heard two Jewish guys having a spirited argument with tinges of acrimony.

    (As in, I was once present when an entire science fiction convention abandoned the hospitality suite where all the free food and drink was, for several hours, because two extremely nice, normally softspoken and mild-mannered Jewish guys were arguing with each other over variations in their religious practices. I thought that as a member of an Irish/German/Scots family, I would be able to hold out and listen to the argument while partaking of nourishment. But no.)

    Anyway, all priests are used to serving as lightning rods for acrimonious comments, often not really aimed at them but at various bad things and people in the past. This is just the same thing on a world stage. Not surprising, and possibly a good sign of things getting better.

  21. Banjo Pickin' Girl says:

    Hey, for once i know some Latin, PP stands for Pastor Pastorum. One Latin point for bpg!

  22. Barnabas says:

    Temple_U_Prof,

    I apologize. I certainly meant nothing offensive by using the term “these people.” The MSM is frustrating in its constant misrepresentations (and sometimes blatant lies) about the pope and the Church. I posted the article primarily to point out the comments by Reuven Rivlin. I don’t know anything about Rivlin, and I’m sure he does wonderful work on the behalf of the Jewish people, but I wonder if leaders like him, who seem so unwilling to work with the Vatican, hinder the dialogue that the pope is seeking. I see no reason that the pope or the Vatican should apologize for anything. There are so many other Jewish leaders, who, especially after Benedict’s visit to Auschwitz, were grateful for the pope’s work with the Jewish people. It’s these individuals who should, in a just world, have more coverage in the press. Benedict just needs to keep doing what he’s doing and work with those who are willing to work with the Church so there can be harmony between the Jewish people and the Church.

    You’re right about the media: the Jerusalem Post is probably similar to the American MSM and it blows things out of proportion and has an anti-Catholic/anti-pope bias. It’s such a shame that the media and certain individuals do so much to take away from everything this beautiful ceremony stood for. It’s just hard to ignore the media.

  23. Lee says:

    How many Catholics may have been starved to death in the Ukraine by Stalin, I do not know, nor how many were killed by the Red Chinese, nor the Japanese, nor how may died under the persecutions of Diocletian, I would not venture a guess. But of one fact I am very certain, that six million Jews died in the Holocaust. This and the fact that virulent anti-semitism of some Catholic populations in Europe was a strong contributing factor. Such has been the education of at least one Catholic citizen of our age.

    Yet, somehow lost in this “education” is the fact that Hitler was fought into the ground by Christians, many of them Catholics, and with the full support of their clergy. Also lost is the fact that that the liberators of Auschwitz etc. were Catholics and Christians. It was not, on the whole, a Jewish, Moslem, or Hindu endeavor. Where is the gratitude? I have never heard it expressed, though certainly it must have been at some point.

    The logic of the situation would require, would it not, that if the pope is expected to apologize for Catholic behavior in practically every speech to the Jews, that Jewish expressions of gratitude be given with similar frequency for the Catholic contribution to Hitler’s overthrow and the liberation of the camps. Absent the Catholic contribution, the Allies simply would not have prevailed. It is not something we boast of, because boasting is not part of the Catholic ethos, but perhaps we should. That may add some balance to Catholic-Jewish relations.

    For my money, Zachary Goldfarb in a comment at the Jeruslaem Post points the way to sanity:

    “Why must everyone keep agologizing? How long are we Jews going to keep defining ourselves by what happened to our ancestors?”

    Personally, I think that the rhetoric of the Jerusalem Post derives from an anti-assimilationist stategy. At some point it must have dawned on much of post- World War II Jewry that they could not go on lauding Pope Pius XII to the skies without risking wholesale conversions to the Catholic faith. That same logic applies mutatis mutandi to relations with the current pope: If a poor construction can be put on his comments, then by all means do so. We have nothing to lose.

  24. Mark says:

    AP article: “Jews suffered centuries of persecution at the hands of the church, which traditionally held them responsible for rejecting and killing Jesus. The church disavowed that view in the 1960s, rejected anti-Semitism and started dialogue with other religions.”

    Not true, obviously, but it’s the perception we’ve allowed the world to be given. No “hermeneutic” is going to establish continuity here. We can all praise the emperor’s new clothes…but the little children clearly see he’s naked.

    The uninformed perceive a 180-degree turn in the Church’s teaching on Jews and other religions, and though we who are informed know it is not QUITE 180-degrees, the fact that it seems that way is evident to anyone who isnt trying to do mental gymnastics to refute it.

    What we need is another strongly worded condemnation of heresy, Islam, paganism, and especially Judaism. We havent had one of those in a while. Simply restating the declaration of Pope Eugene at the Council of Florence would do:

    “The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the “eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41), unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.”

  25. quiet beginning says:

    Mark wrote:

    “AP article: “Jews suffered centuries of persecution at the hands of the church, which traditionally held them responsible for rejecting and killing Jesus. The church disavowed that view in the 1960s, rejected anti-Semitism and started dialogue with other religions.”

    Not true, obviously, but it’s the perception we’ve allowed the world to be given. No “hermeneutic” is going to establish continuity here. We can all praise the emperor’s new clothes…but the little children clearly see he’s naked.

    The uninformed perceive a 180-degree turn in the Church’s teaching on Jews and other religions, and though we who are informed know it is not QUITE 180-degrees, the fact that it seems that way is evident to anyone who isnt trying to do mental gymnastics to refute it.

    What we need is another strongly worded condemnation of heresy, Islam, paganism, and especially Judaism. We havent had one of those in a while. Simply restating the declaration of Pope Eugene at the Council of Florence would do…”

    Conciliar apologists can say whatever they like in trying to square what modern prelates teach vis-a-vis pre-Vatican II official Church teaching. The fact remains that people under the care of those prelates have an unmistakable perception of what current teaching is, to wit, that Islam, Judaism, Protestantism and even pagan religions are acceptable to God, and, furthermore, that it is not a teaching of the Catholic Church that non-Catholics must enter the Catholic religion. Don’t believe it? Just ask your typical conciliarist in the pew and you’ll find out.

    Catholicism—true Catholicism—is THE pre-eminently logical religion, and as the perfection of the Old Law, it supplants it. As a logical religion the Church must adhere to the principle of contradiction. That means that what the Church has decreed regarding non-Catholic religions cannot ever be reversed. Period. Does anyone really want to argue that pre-VII Church taught that God can be anything but DISPLEASED with forms of worship that are antagonistic to that Religion which He founded and commanded ALL men to practice? Does anyone really want to argue that the pre-VII Church taught (or would allow that it could ever be the case)that the Messiah has not come yet for the Jews?
    We’re talking about objective truth here. We’re talking about saying “yes” when you mean “yes” and “no” when you mean “no,” anything else being from the Evil One.