Pope Francis used his weekly address and blessing to tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square yesterday to call for prayer and reflection over the Holocaust, while Muslim clergy have made a groundbreaking visit to Auschwitz to commemorate the victims.
The Pope said: “Indifference is inadmissible before this enormous tragedy, this atrocity, and memory is a duty. Tomorrow [on Holocaust Memorial Day], we are all invited to stop for a moment of prayer and reflection, each one of us saying in our own heart: ‘never again, never again’.”
The Pope has also ordered the opening of the Vatican’s WWII archives, which Jewish groups have been requesting for years, and last week called the rise in antisemitism today a “barbaric resurgence”.
Meanwhile, a group led by the Secretary-General of the Muslim World League, Dr Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, has been taking part in the commemorations at the Nazi extermination camp.
Dr Al-Issa, who is based in Saudi Arabia, led a group described as “the most senior Islamic leadership delegation” ever to visit Auschwitz, comprising 62 Muslims from 28 countries, including 25 prominent religious leaders.
Dr Al-Issa said: “To be here, among the children of Holocaust survivors and members of the Jewish and Islamic communities, is both a sacred duty and a profound honor,” adding: “The unconscionable crimes to which we bear witness today are truly crimes against humanity. That is to say, a violation of us all, an affront to all of God’s children.”
In a powerful opinion editorial in the UK, Dr Al-Issa wrote: “The Holocaust is truly the most horrific crime in human history, in which six million Jews perished at the hands of Hitler’s Nazi regime simply because they were Jews.
“This crime shook humankind. Only the malicious sympathise with it. These people are no less barbaric than the Nazis themselves, in terms of malevolence and brutality. Those who deny the Holocaust are equally criminal.”
He added: “I say that we Muslims condemn, in the strongest terms, what happened in the Holocaust, and express our sorrow and sadness at what we consider to be a crime of unparalleled proportions in human history.”