Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A sign of hope

It was a deeply moving and unplanned moment during the Pope’s visit to the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. Grey clouds and a shower of rain accompanied his arrival at the gates of Birkenau, a sign, it seemed, that even the skies wept as they recalled the sorrow and the suffering undergone by so many hundreds of thousands of people, young and old.

Pope Benedict prayed at the 22 slabs at the International Memorial to those who had died in the prison camps, slabs written in 22 languages. Youngsters brought forward blue glass bowls, each containing a lighted candle, to be placed, one by one, at the foot of each slab.

As the pope prayed, the camera panned the area of the camps, resting briefly on the railway lines that had brought so many goods wagons, filled with those condemned to die. The camera moved, showing the chimney of the crematoria…and there was the miracle. The grey clouds parted to make way for a rainbow. Tragedy made way for hope.

A few minutes later, the prayers in several languages made way for Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead. The cantor’s beautiful voice soared above the area of the memorial…and there, too, was the unplanned moment with the camera, a moment that was poignant, beautiful and unforgettable, a moment that allowed Kaddish to travel, with the camera, over every hut, crematorium, remnant of death and allowed the dead to rest in peace.

The visit of Pope Benedict to Auschwitz and Birkenau at last brought together in peace German and Pole, Christian and Jew. The rainbow, the sign of God’s hope to humanity, Kaddish and the words of a German Pope made a new beginning, a new unity and understanding. May all those who died rest in peace.

God bless,
Sr. Janet