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Pope pays silent respects to death camp victims.

POPE Francis has paid a sombre and largely silent visit to the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, becoming the third consecutive pontiff to make the pilgrimage to the place where Adolf Hitler's forces killed more than a million people.

Francis entered the camp on foot, walking slowly in his white robe beneath the notorious gate at Auschwitz bearing the words "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work will set you free).

After Auschwitz he moved to nearby Birkenau, where people were murdered in factory-like fashion in gas chambers.

It was a contemplative and private visit of nearly two hours that Francis passed in silence, except for a few words he exchanged with camp survivors and Holocaust rescuers. Vatican and Polish church officials had explained that he wanted to express his sorrow in silence at the site, mourning the victims in quiet prayer and meditation.

However, he did express his feelings, writing in the Auschwitz memorial's guest book in Spanish: "Lord, have pity on your people. Lord, forgive so much cruelty."

Both of his predecessors had a personal historical connection to the site, with the first, John Paul II, hailing from Poland and himself a witness to the suffering inflicted on his nation during the German occupation. His successor Benedict XVI, who visited in 2006, was a German who served in the Hitler Youth for a time as a teenager.

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<B Pope Francis walks through the gate of the former Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland, yesterday

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 30, 2016
Words:248
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