Pope Benedict XVI- Audiences

General Audience
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 ministry.

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 in English:]

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 said:]

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 museums.

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 spirit.

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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