The words of the ancient Psalm, rise from our hearts: "I have
become like a broken vessel. I hear the whispering of many -- terror on
every side -- as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take
my life. But I trust in you, O Lord: I say, 'you are my God."' (Psalms
In this place of memories, the mind and heart and soul feel an extreme
need for silence. Silence in which to remember. Silence in which to try
to make some sense of the memories which come flooding back. Silence because
there are no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the
My own personal memories are of all that happened when the Nazis
occupied Poland during the war. I remember my Jewish friends and neighbors,
some of whom perished, while others survived. I have come to Yad Vashem
to pay homage to the millions of Jewish people who, stripped of everything,
especially of human dignity, were murdered in the Holocaust. More than
half a century has passed, but the memories remain.
Here, as at Auschwitz and many other places in Europe, we are overcome
by the echo of the heart-rending laments of so many. Men, women and children,
cry out to us from the depths of the horror that they knew. How can we
fail to heed their cry? No one can forget or ignore what happened. No one
can diminish its scale.
We wish to remember. But we wish to remember for a purpose, namely
to ensure that never again will evil prevail, as it did for the millions
of innocent victims of Nazism.
How could man have such utter contempt for man? Because he had reached
the point of contempt for God. Only a godless ideology could plan and carry
out the extermination of a whole people.
The honor given to the 'Just Gentiles' by the state of Israel at
Yad Vashem for having acted heroically to save Jews, sometimes to the point
of giving their own lives, is a recognition that not even in the darkest
hour is every light extinguished. That is why the Psalms and the entire
Bible, though well aware of the human capacity for evil, also proclaims
that evil will not have the last word.
Out of the depths of pain and sorrow, the believer's heart cries
out: "I trust in you, O Lord: 'I say, you are my God."' (Psalms
Jews and Christians share an immense spiritual patrimony, flowing
from God's self-revelation. Our religious teachings and our spiritual experience
demand that we overcome evil with good. We remember, but not with any desire
for vengeance or as an incentive to hatred. For us, to remember is to pray
for peace and justice, and to commit ourselves to their cause. Only a world
at peace, with justice for all, can avoid repeating the mistakes and terrible
crimes of the past.
As bishop of Rome and successor of the Apostle Peter, I assure the
Jewish people that the Catholic Church, motivated by the Gospel law of
truth and love, and by no political considerations, is deeply saddened
by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed
against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place.
The church rejects racism in any form as a denial of the image of
the Creator inherent in every human being.
In this place of solemn remembrance, I fervently pray that our sorrow
for the tragedy which the Jewish people suffered in the 20th century will
lead to a new relationship between Christians and Jews. Let us build a
new future in which there will be no more anti-Jewish feeling among Christians
or anti-Christian feeling among Jews, but rather the mutual respect required
of those who adore the one Creator and Lord, and look to Abraham as our
common father in faith.
The world must heed the warning that comes to us from the victims
of the Holocaust, and from the testimony of the survivors. Here at Yad
Vashem the memory lives on, and burns itself onto our souls. It makes us
cry out: "I hear the whispering of many -- terror on every side --
but I trust in you, O Lord: I say, 'You are my God."' (Psalms 31:13-15)
Pope John Paul II - March 23, 2000