SILENCE LIKE A CRY
That day was completely different than the previous one. The atmosphere on Thursday was sulky: the sky was cloudy, it rained heavily from time to time, but the spirit among the youth was lively which was also accompanying the Holy Father. Whereas on Friday before midday the weather was beautiful, which contrasted with the gloomy landscape of Auschwitz - Birkenau camps.
In the dynamics of the World Youth Days Friday was devoted to reflecting on the mystery of the Cross – a meeting with suffering. The Holy Father’s visit in Auschwitz was particular because of silence. Pope Francis decided to keep silent in that place and it was a prophetic decision.
In Auschwitz, having passing the gate with the sneering phrase ‘Arbeit macht frei’, the Holy Father sat down on a bench and prayed for a quarter. It was the place where a camp orchestra had used to play. Marches used to be played so that prisoners would walk into the camp rhythmically. Then Francis went up to a gallows pole where the sentenced were executed. He kissed it. It was impossible not to think about the Cross which was a tool of execution and thanks to Christ’s sacrifice, it became a sign of human liberation. The Pope entered the area between the bloc 10 and 11 where there is a Wall of Execution. Then he lit a lamp next to it – his gift for the commemoration museum. Fragments of ruins were reflected on it, in which pieces of flora and fauna are seen. It means salvation of human history thanks to Christ’s Resurrection. On the lamp there is also a symbolic heart of Jesus from which the fire of mercifulness emerges. This is a call for proclaiming a Christian testimony in the world.
Finally a particular moment: the Holy Father went down to a prison cell in which St. Maksymilian Maria Kolbe gave his life. Francis sat down in it on his own and remained there for a few minutes. The white figure of the Pope, engrossed in the dark, became another sign of the light which disperses darkness.
Francis got to Birkenau by car, from which he got out in front of the Death Gate. Trains were passing through this gate with the sentenced to execution. The Holy Father went through it on foot so as to go to the Remembrance monument in a special vehicle along the ramp. And there was silence there. Francis went along the boards commemorating the nations whose citizens were killed in Auschwitz-Birkenau. They stopped at obelisks – the symbols of crematorium chimney. And at that time the silence was disrupted for the first time. First a rabbi sang in Hebrew and then a priest read Psalm 130 in Polish: I am calling to You, Lord from depths, Oh, Lord, listen to my voice! Incline your ears to my begging! If you remember your sins, Lord, who will survive? But you give forgiveness, so that you will be surrounded with fear. I trust my Lord, my soul expresses hope; I am waiting for your word. My soul is awaiting Lord more than guards of the dawn < more than guards of the dawn>. Let Israel lok forward to Lord. For there is Lord’s mercy and abundant salvation. He will redeem Israel of its all sins.
A day before, Francis’ friend – a rabbi Abraham Skórka explained motives of the papal decision so as not to give any speeches in that place.- On 5 July, my birthday, the Pope called me – said the rabbi – and said that he would keep silent. For Francis gestures are more important than words. And this silence contains a very important message: in the face of human suffering, no words are sufficient.
The pilgrimage on Friday, following the Cross, led the Holy Father toe the Children’s Hospital in Prokocim and to Błonie where he participated in the Way of the Cross. Its fourteen stations were connected with fourteen mercy deeds – towards the body and towards the soul. During those World Youth Days Francis had planned and unplanned occasions to testify them. ‘Visit the sick’ – it was an unexpected visit to the retired archbishop of Cracow cardinal Franciszek Macharski; ‘rebuke the unskilled’ – these were advices on marriage proclaimed from a window.
From the same window – for the last time during his visit in Poland – the Holy Father summarized the day: - How much pain, how much suffering there… - he said so about his visit in Auschwitz-Birkenau. – Is it possible for us, people created to God’s image, to be able to do such terrible acts? However, it happened so…In today’s world there is still cruelty – he added. – We can say that we saw cruelty 70 years ago, people who were dying when shot, or in gas chambers. However, today, in so many places in the world, where there is war, the same things are happening. This is the reality – says the Pope.
The Holy Father said that Jesus had arrived to carry our sins on his back and he asks us to pray – Let’s pray for Jesus in all people who are hungry, thirsty, doubtful, sick, who are lonely, those who feel the burden of doubts and guilt – said Francis.
Friday- 29 July 2016