“Lord, forgive so much cruelty”

Pope Francis touches the ‘wall of death’, the scene of many thousands of executions. AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis touches the ‘wall of death’, the scene of many thousands of executions. AFP/Getty Images

“In the gloom of an underground cell at the site of one of the greatest horrors in history, Pope Francis sat alone, head bowed, in silence.”  Thus began Harriet Sherwood’s article in the Guardian last Friday about Pope Francis in Poland.

“A dim lamp threw light on to his hunched shoulders, clad in papal white. The bars of the cell door cast shadows along the stone floor, and a cross was faintly scratched in the wall.

Seventy-five years ago, when Francis was a four-year-old boy called Jorge living in Buenos Aires, this cell at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp was occupied by prisoner number 16770, Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan friar…

The last survivor in the line at Block 11 handed Francis a lit candle, which he carried to the “wall of death”, against which thousands of prisoners were shot. Reaching out to rest his right hand on the wall, he bowed his head.

He then descended steps to the bleak narrow corridors leading to Kolbe’s cell. After emerging from his contemplation, he wrote, in Spanish, in the Auschwitz memorial’s guest book:

“Lord, have pity on your people. Lord, forgive so much cruelty.”

At the nearby Birkenau camp, part of the Auschwitz complex, the Pope slowly passed along a monument to camp victims, situated between the ruins of the two biggest gas chambers and crematoria, pausing to read inscriptions in 23 languages. Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, hauntingly recited Psalm 130 in Hebrew:

“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord”.

From The Guardian article by Harriet Sherwood

With brevity, it is fitting to pray this prayer in some sense of unity: one with the victims; one with the perpetrators; one with the survivors; one with the bystanders; one with the God of mercy. With contemplation, join me in prayer:

“Lord, have pity on your people. Lord, forgive so much cruelty.”

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About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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