June 4, 2006


Marking evil’s deepest roots: We so cavalierly use the past for our present purposes that it is remarked when someone demurs from doing so. Pope Benedict XVI went to Auschwitz last Sunday and delivered an address that was as breathtaking in its scope as it was heartrending in its poignancy (REV. RAYMOND DE SOUZA, June 1, 2006, National Post)

“The rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people, to cancel it from the register of the peoples of the earth,” said Benedict. “Thus the words of the Psalm, ‘We are being killed, accounted as sheep for the slaughter,’ were fulfilled in a terrifying way. Deep down, those vicious criminals, by wiping out this people, wanted to kill the God who called Abraham, who spoke on Sinai and laid down principles to serve as a guide for mankind, principles that are eternally valid.”

“If this people, by its very existence, was a witness to the God who spoke to humanity and took us to himself, then that God finally had to die and power had to belong to man alone — to those men, who thought that by force they had made themselves masters of the world,” the Pope continued. “By destroying Israel, by the Shoah, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of man, the rule of the powerful.”

Benedict’s words give the Holocaust a dimension that addresses honestly its full historical depth. It rings with the wisdom of the Torah, that the Jewish people, elected by God, were called in Abraham to be a witness that there were no other gods, including those constructed by the powers of this earth.

Critics of Benedict’s address, reading it through the lenses of contemporary politics, missed this deeper dimension. But my friend John Allen, Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, was on the papal trip and captured the scope of what Benedict was saying.

“It is as if Benedict wanted to avoid exploiting Auschwitz as a backdrop for any contemporary cause, however noble, and instead wanted to penetrate to what he considers its deepest roots — the primitive human instinct to slay God as the final limit on earthly power,” Allen wrote.

The powerful do not like limits on their power. Therefore, those who would slay God — or at least the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who puts limits to the rule of Caesar — must turn against those who bear witness to Him. Benedict spoke of those Christian martyrs who died at Auschwitz — St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. His entire address intimated a broader martyrdom, that of the whole Jewish people as God’s special witnesses.

Their witness is the truth of the past. It is not for us to use for our purposes today; rather, it is for us to learn, to respect, to honour and to heed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 4, 2006 4:56 PM

I have written on several occasions recently about the attack on Christianity in America. We have seen it with the recent lawsuit in Iowa to drive out the very successful Christian-based prisoner program, and we have seen it in the student newspaper at the University of Oregon. Christian bashing and hate towards Christians today is reaching epic proportions. That said, it was with great interest that I read what Orrin wrote about the Pope's address at Auschwitz and its deep meaning and significance. History repeats itself, and this observation makes me even more concerned about whats going on today. Thank you for the insight.

Posted by: Richard at June 5, 2006 1:00 AM
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