ROME (JTA) — Pope Benedict XVI called Nazi death camps "extreme symbols of evil" and hell on earth.
Speaking Sunday to the faithful gathered at his summer home at Castel Gandolfo near Rome, the pope made his remarks in a blessing in which he recalled Catholic saints celebrated in the liturgy this month.
They include two saints who were killed at Auschwitz: St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Catholic priest killed there in August 1941, and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, better known as Edith Stein.
Stein was a German Jewish convert to Catholicism who became a nun but was deported to Auschwitz in early August 1942 because of her Jewish origins. She was believed killed there on Aug. 9.
"All saints, especially martyrs, bear witness to God, who is love," the pope said. "The Nazi camps, like all extermination camps, can be considered extreme symbols of evil, of the hell that opens on earth when man forgets God."