A leading Roman Catholic official led a Mass at Auschwitz on Monday to mark the 65th anniversary of the death of Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan friar who gained martyrdom by volunteering to die in the place of another man at the Nazi death camp.
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the archbishop of Krakow and the longtime secretary to the late Pope John Paul II, led the ceremony for the Polish friar whose action during World War II carries symbolic weight for the church and Catholic-Jewish relations.
Kolbe was sent to Auschwitz in 1941 after Nazi officials discovered he had been hiding Jews. He was executed after he volunteered to take the place of a condemned prisoner with a wife and children.
Dziwisz prayed for forgiveness for those who killed Kolbe and called on those gathered to remember his martyrdom. Kolbe was canonized by John Paul in 1982.