Pope to honor Holocaust victims, priest

Roman Catholic priest made saint by John Paul II for giving his life for another Auschwitz inmate.

pope benedict 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
pope benedict 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
German-born Pope Benedict XVI will honor the victims of the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau when he visits later this month, including a Roman Catholic priest made saint by John Paul II for giving up his life for another inmate, a church official said Monday. Benedict will visit the former camp where Nazis killed some 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, on the last day of his May 25-28 pilgrimage to Poland. Benedict will deliver a speech in Italian to survivors and members of the Jewish community in Poland, the Rev. Stanislaw Lubaszka told The Associated Press. A prayer for peace will be made in Benedict's native German to stress the symbolism of his visit to a place where the language brings ominous associations. "The Germans set up the camp so there is a historic link, but the appeal for peace goes to the entire world," Lubaszka said. Benedict will also pray in the cell where the Nazis killed the Rev. Maksymilian Kolbe after he volunteered to give up his life in place of a stranger, inmate Franciszek Gajowniczek, who was the father of a family. John Paul made Kolbe a saint in 1982 and Gajowniczek died of old age in 1995. Benedict will also light the candle placed in the cell by Pope John Paul II during his visit in 1979. He will then meet with Carmelite nuns who moved their nunnery from the camp to a site nearby at the urging of John Paul II in 1993. The Jewish community had argued that the cross on their nunnery harmed the memory of the camp's Jewish victims.