Boston Archbishop, Visiting Auschwitz, Pleas for Christian-jewish Brotherhood

The Archbishop of Boston, Bernard Cardinal Law, leading a 94-member Massachusetts group to Poland, issued a plea at Auschwitz Tuesday for brotherhood between Christians and Jews. Laying flowers before the Wall of Death at the former Nazi death camp, Law told the large assemblage, “Never again.”

Joining Law at the camp were Franciszek Cardinal Macharski, Archbishop of Cracow, in whose archdiocese Auschwitz is located, and who recently returned from a visit to Yad Vashem in Israel; and Friedrich Cardinal Wetter of Munich.

Also present were delegation members Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis and his wife Kitty; Mass. State Sen. William Bulger; representatives of the Massachusetts Jewish community, led by Auschwitz survivor Sonia Weitz of Peabody; and Leonard Zakim, New England regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. The 10-day visit to Poland was a Catholic pilgrimage to strengthen American-Polish Catholic ties, but Jews were invited to participate in the visit. On the last day, Tuesday, the group went to Auschwitz.

After touring Auschwitz with the large group, whom Law referred to as “fellow pilgrims,” Law gave a lengthy speech “of protest and determination” in which he prayed for the victims of the Nazis and voiced “trepidation” at the auguries of the century to come, emphasizing Christian responsibility for the past and future.

‘NEVER AGAIN, NEVER AGAIN’

“The 21st century will begin soon,” said Law. “Another chance? For what? Whoever does not think of it with trepidation does not know Auschwitz…. We who are Christians–we who claim redemption has taken place have to deal with Auschwitz….”

Standing before the stone monument to the four million who were killed at the camp, of whom two-and-a-half million were Jews, Law said: “Here, whatever one might believe, wherever one comes from here every man and woman becomes Jewish or ceases to be human…. Here, the human cry becomes the Jewish cry or one has died spiritually. Never again. Never again.”

Law spoke of “two formidable obstacles” that the present generation faces in admitting the “human capacity for evil.” He said these were “our desire to deny responsibility for good and evil” and “confidence in the unaided moral progress of the human race,” which Law called a hollow fantasy.

Invoking the “Shema” (“Hear O Israel ….”) which the Jews chanted as they marched to the crematoria, Law said the prayer was an explanation in itself for Auschwitz being “a perpetual reminder of our need for God. Their profession of faith supports the moral heritage shared by Jews and Christians.”

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