Pope Benedict XVI- Audiences
Reflections on Trip to Poland
"All Christians Must Feel Committed to Give Testimony"
H.H. Benedict XVI
May 31, 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Today I wish to go over with you the stages of the apostolic trip I made
in recent days to Poland. I thank the Polish episcopate, in particular
the metropolitan archbishops of Warsaw and Krakow, for the zeal and care
with which they prepared this visit. I again express my gratitude to the
president of the republic and to the country's different authorities, as
well as to all those who have cooperated in the success of this event.
Above all I wish to thank from my heart the Catholics and the whole
Polish people, as I have felt their embrace full of human and spiritual
warmth. Many of you have seen it on television. It was a true expression
of catholicity, of love of the Church, which is expressed in love for
the Successor of Peter.
After the arrival at Warsaw airport, the place of my first appointment
reserved for priests was the cathedral of that important city on the day
that the 50th anniversary was being celebrated of the priestly
ordination of Cardinal Jozef Glemp, pastor of that archdiocese. In this
way, my pilgrimage began with the sign of the priesthood and it
continued later with the ecumenical solicitude witnessed in the Lutheran
Church of the Most Holy Trinity.
On that occasion, together with the representatives of the different
churches and ecclesial communities that live in Poland, I confirmed the
firm decision to consider the commitment for the reconstruction of full
and visible unity among Christians as an authentic priority of my
Then there was the solemn Eucharistic celebration in Pilsudski Square,
full of people, in the center of Warsaw. This place, in which we
solemnly celebrated the Eucharist with joy, had a symbolic value, as it
had hosted historical events such as the holy Masses celebrated by John
Paul II and the funeral of the Cardinal Primate Stefan Wyszynski, as
well as some of the large celebrations for the repose of his soul in the
days after the death of my venerated predecessor.
The program could not but include a visit to the shrines that marked the
life of Karol Wojtyla as priest and bishop, above all three: that of
Czestochowa, of Kalwaria Zebrzidowska and of Divine Mercy. I will not be
able to forget the visit to the famous Marian shrine of Jasna Gora. On
that Clear Mountain, heart of the Polish nation, as if it were a
cenacle, very many faithful, especially men and women religious,
seminarians and representatives of the ecclesial movements, gathered
around the Successor of Peter to listen with me to Mary.
Inspired by the wonderful Marian meditation that John Paul II gave the
Church in the encyclical "Redemptoris Mater," I wished to propose the
faith again as a fundamental attitude of the spirit, which is not
something merely intellectual or sentimental. Authentic faith involves
the whole person: his thoughts, affections, intentions, relationships,
corporeal nature, activity and daily work.
Later visiting the wonderful shrine of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, near
Krakow, I prayed to Our Lady of Sorrows to support the faith of the
ecclesial community in moments of difficulty and trial; the successive
stage at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki, allowed me to
emphasize that only Divine Mercy illuminates the mystery of man. In the
convent near this shrine, on contemplating the luminous wounds of the
risen Christ, Sister Faustina Kowalska received a message of confidence
for humanity, the message of Divine Mercy, which John Paul II echoed and
of which he became the interpreter. It is a really central message for
our time: Mercy as the force of God, as the divine limit against the
evil of the world.
I wished to visit other symbolic "shrines": I am referring to Wadowice,
the locality which has become famous because Karol Wojtyla was born and
was baptized there. The visit gave me the opportunity to thank the Lord
for the gift of this tireless servant of the Gospel. The roots of his
strong faith, of his very sensitive and open humanity, of his love of
beauty and truth, of his devotion to the Virgin, of his love of the
Church and above all of his vocation to holiness are found in this small
city in which he received his early education and formation. Another
place loved by John Paul II is Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, a symbolic
place for the Polish nation: Karol Wojtyla celebrated his first Mass in
the crypt of that cathedral.
Another very beautiful experience was the meeting with young people,
which took place in Krakow, in the great Blonie Park. I handed
symbolically to the numerous young people the "Flame of Mercy" so that
they will be heralds of Love and Divine Mercy in the world. With them I
meditated on the Gospel passage of the house built on the rock (cf.
Matthew 7:24-27), read also today at the beginning of this audience.
I paused to reflect also on the Word of God on Sunday morning, solemnity
of the Ascension, during the conclusive celebration of my visit. It was
a liturgical meeting animated by the extraordinary participation of the
faithful in the same park in which, the previous night, the appointment
with young people had taken place.
I took advantage of the opportunity to renew before the Polish people
the wonderful proclamation of the Christian truth about man, created and
redeemed in Christ; that truth that John Paul proclaimed with vigor on
so many occasions to encourage all to remain firm in faith, hope and
love. "Stand firm in the faith." This is the instruction he has left the
children of his beloved Poland, encouraging them to persevere in
faithfulness to Christ and to the Church so that Europe and the world
will never lack the contribution of her evangelical testimony. All
Christians must feel committed to give this testimony so as to avoid
that humanity of the third millennium might again know new horrors
similar to those tragically evoked by the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
In fact before returning to Rome I wished to pause in this place sadly
known throughout the world. In the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, as in other
similar camps, Hitler had 6 million Jews exterminated. In Auschwitz-Birkenau
some 150,000 Poles and tens of thousands of men and women of other
nationalities also died.
In the face of the horror of Auschwitz there is no other answer than the
cross of Christ: Love that descends to the abyss of evil to save man in
his innermost being, where his freedom can rebel against God. May
today's humanity not forget Auschwitz and the other "death factories" in
which the Nazi regime tried to eliminate God to take his place! May
people again know that God is Father of all and that he calls us all in
Christ to build together a world of justice, truth and peace! We want to
ask this of the Lord through the intercession of Mary, whom today, at
the conclusion of the month of May, we contemplate visiting with
diligence and love her elderly relative Elizabeth.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father read the following summary
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My recent pastoral visit to Poland followed in the footsteps of my
predecessor, Pope John Paul II, to the cities of Warsaw and Krakow. I
stopped at many places dear to the late Pope: the Marian shrine of Jasna
Gora, Kalwaria Zebrzidowska and the shrine of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki,
as well as Wadowice, Karol Wojtyla's birthplace, and Wawel Cathedral,
where he celebrated his first Mass.
Everywhere I went, I echoed the appeal of Pope John Paul to "stand firm
in the faith," to make Christ the foundation of our lives, and to bear
witness to the Gospel message of man's dignity as a creature made in the
image of God.
At the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a place of horror and godless
inhumanity, I paid homage to the victims, including over a million Jews
and many Poles. Our only response to Auschwitz can be to contemplate the
mystery of the cross, of a love which brings salvation by freely
descending into the abyss of evil. Our world must not forget Auschwitz!
We need to turn once more to the God of love, who calls us in Christ to
build together a world of justice, truth and peace.
[The Pope then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he
I greet all the English-speaking visitors, especially the many pilgrims
from England, Wales, Ireland, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines,
Sri Lanka and the United States. I also greet the Patrons of the Arts in
the Vatican Museums visiting Rome for the 500th anniversary of the
Dear friends: I am most grateful for your efforts to preserve the
Vatican's artistic heritage, which testifies to the Church's faith, the
beauty of God's creation and the highest aspirations of the human
Upon all present at today's audience I cordially invoke an abundance of
joy and peace in the Risen Lord.
© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana [adapted]
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