Pope Benedict XVI- General Audiences
On the Martyrs of Auschwitz
"Prayer Was the Secret"
H.H. Benedict XVI
August 13, 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
On my return from Bressanone, where I was able to spend a period of
rest, I am happy to meet and greet you, dear residents of Castel
Gandolfo and you, pilgrims, who have come today to visit me. I would
like to thank again all those who have received me and looked after me
during my sojourn in the mountains. They have been days of peaceful
relaxation, during which I have not ceased to entrust to the Lord all
those who have asked me for my prayers.
And there are so many who wrote me requesting me to pray for them. They
expressed their joys to me but also their worries, their life plans, but
also their family and work problems, their heartfelt expectations and
hopes as well as the anxieties connected with the uncertainty that
humanity is experiencing at this time. I can assure each and all of you
of my remembrance, especially in the daily celebration of Holy Mass and
in the recitation of the holy rosary. I know well that the first service
I can render the Church and humanity is, in fact, prayer, because by
praying I confidently place in the Lord's hands the ministry that he
himself has entrusted to me, together with the destiny of the whole
ecclesial and civil community.
Those who pray never lose hope, even when they find themselves in
difficult and even humanly desperate situations. Sacred Scripture
teaches us this and it is attested in the history of the Church. How
many examples, in fact, we can recall of situations in which it was
precisely prayer that sustained the journey of saints of the Christian
people! Among the testimonies of our age I would like to mention that of
two saints whose memory we recall these days: Teresa Benedicta of the
Cross, Edith Stein, whose feast we celebrated Aug. 9, and Maximilian
Mary Kolbe, whom we remember tomorrow, Aug. 14, vigil of the Solemnity
of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Both ended their earthly life with martyrdom in the Auschwitz
concentration camp. It would seem that their existence could be regarded
as a defeat, but it is precisely in their martyrdom that the brilliance
of Love shines which conquers the darkness of egoism and hatred.
Attributed to St. Maximilian Kolbe are the following words which it is
said he pronounced at the height of the Nazi persecution: "Hatred is not
a creative force: Love alone is." Heroic proof of love was his generous
offer of himself instead of a prison companion, an offer that culminated
in death in a starvation bunker on Aug. 14, 1941.
On Aug. 6 of the following year, three days before her tragic end, Edith
Stein approached some of the sisters of her convent in Echt, Holland,
and said to them: "I am ready for anything. Jesus is also here in our
midst. Up to now I have been able to pray very well and have said with
all my heart: 'Ave, crux, spes unica.'" Witnesses who succeeded in
fleeing from the terrible massacre recounted that Teresa Benedicta of
the Cross, while dressed in the Carmelite habit, and moving consciously
toward death, was outstanding for her peaceful conduct and her serene
attitude, and her calm behavior and attention to the needs of all.
Prayer was the secret of this saint, co-patroness of Europe, that "even
after being led to the truth in the peace of the contemplative life, had
to live to the fullest the mystery of the Cross" (Apostolic Letter "Spes
Aedificandi," Teachings of John Paul II, XX, 2, 1999, page 511).
"Ave Maria!" was the last invocation on the lips of St. Maximilian Mary
Kolbe while he extended his hand to the one who was killing him by
injecting him with carbolic acid. It is moving to see how humble and
trusting recourse to Our Lady is always the source of courage and
While we prepare to celebrate the solemnity of the Assumption, which is
one of the most cherished Marian feasts of the Christian tradition, let
us renew our trust in her who from heaven watches over us with maternal
love at every moment. We say this, in fact, in the familiar prayer of
the Hail Mary, asking her to pray for us "now and at the hour of our
[Translation by ZENIT]
[The Pope then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he
I am happy to welcome the young Irish pilgrims from Kildare and Leighlin
who are with us this morning. My warm greeting also goes to the Heisei
Youth group from Japan. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims,
including those from Guam, Canada and the United States, I cordially
invoke God's blessings of joy and peace.
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