A German Pope at the Holocaust Memorial

Message Takes on Greater Significance, Suggests Aide

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By Mercedes de la Torre

JERUSALEM, MAY 11, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's visit to Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial today represents a strong message for the entire Church, according to a Vatican aide accompanying the Holy Father on his weeklong pilgrimage.

Father Caesar Atuire, the delegate administrator of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, spoke with ZENIT about the Pope's arrival today in Israel and the events on the Holy Father's schedule during this, the third full day of his Holy Land pilgrimage.

The Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi is the Vatican institution whose mission is to evangelize through pastoral tourism and the ministry of pilgrimage.

Father Atuire said he considered choosing the Yad Vashem as one of the first stops in Israel to be a courageous move.

In a moving address focused on the importance of a name, Benedict XVI said at the memorial, "Gazing upon the faces reflected in the pool that lies in stillness within this memorial, one cannot help but recall how each of them bears a name. I can only imagine the joyful expectation of their parents as they anxiously awaited the birth of their children. What name shall we give this child? What is to become of him or her? Who could have imagined that they would be condemned to such a deplorable fate!"

Father Atuire declared that the Pope's words were not merely his personal reflections, but delivered as the head of the Church.

"The Catholic Church rejects all that is violence," he said, "and I think that, in this moment in which the Pope is visiting this country, it is appropriate to say that all of us have the mission that the Holy Father presented in his discourse: to work so that these tragedies do not happen again in the history of humanity."

Furthermore, Father Atuire continued, "the Pope is German, the nation to which belonged the Nazis who organized the Holocaust."

His national origin, the priest suggested, gives even greater weight to his message and his pilgrimage to the holy places.

His words are particularly eloquent when he says, "we do not want these things to be repeated, and faced with the horror of what happened, we have to learn to do everything we can so that this world can be a better world," Father Atuire proposed.

In this context, the priest contended that the first leg of the Pope's pilgrimage in Jordan was a good example of this message.

"Jordan is a country where Christians, Muslims and the other religions coexist in peace," he said, noting that "in that nation, though the Christians are a tiny minority, they have an important role from the perspective of works of charity and also from the perspective of education and culture."