|On 11 May 2009, during his
apostolic journey to the Holy Land, Pope Benedict visited the
Jewish memorial to HaShoah, the Holocaust, and offered the
I will give in my house and within
my walls a memorial and a name … I will give them an everlasting
name which shall not be cut off" (Is 56:5).
This passage from the Book of the prophet Isaiah furnishes
the two simple words which solemnly express the profound
significance of this revered place: yad – "memorial";
shem – "name". I have come to stand in silence before this
monument, erected to honor the memory of the millions of Jews
killed in the horrific tragedy of the Shoah. They lost
their lives, but they will never lose their names: these are
indelibly etched in the hearts of their loved ones, their
surviving fellow prisoners, and all those determined never to
allow such an atrocity to disgrace mankind again. Most of all,
their names are forever fixed in the memory of Almighty God.
One can rob a neighbor of possessions, opportunity or
freedom. One can weave an insidious web of lies to convince
others that certain groups are undeserving of respect. Yet, try
as one might, one can never take away the name of a
fellow human being.
Sacred Scripture teaches us the importance of names in
conferring upon someone a unique mission or a special gift. God
called Abram "Abraham" because he was to become the "father of
many nations" (Gen 17:5). Jacob was called "Israel"
because he had "contended with God and man and prevailed" (Gen
32:29). The names enshrined in this hallowed monument will
forever hold a sacred place among the countless descendants of
Abraham. Like his, their faith was tested. Like Jacob, they were
immersed in the struggle to discern the designs of the Almighty.
May the names of these victims never perish! May their suffering
never be denied, belittled or forgotten! And may all people of
goodwill remain vigilant in rooting out from the heart of man
anything that could lead to tragedies such as this!
The Catholic Church, committed to the teachings of Jesus and
intent on imitating his love for all people, feels deep
compassion for the victims remembered here. Similarly, she draws
close to all those who today are subjected to persecution on
account of race, color, condition of life or religion – their
sufferings are hers, and hers is their hope for justice. As
Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, I reaffirm –
like my predecessors – that the Church is committed to praying
and working tirelessly to ensure that hatred will never reign in
the hearts of men again. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is
the God of peace (cf. Ps 85:9).
The Scriptures teach that it is our task to remind the world
that this God lives, even though we sometimes find it difficult
to grasp his mysterious and inscrutable ways. He has revealed
himself and continues to work in human history. He alone governs
the world with righteousness and judges all peoples with
fairness (cf. Ps 9:9).
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!
As we stand here in silence, their cry still echoes in our
hearts. It is a cry raised against every act of injustice and
violence. It is a perpetual reproach against the spilling of
innocent blood. It is the cry of Abel rising from the earth to
the Almighty. Professing our steadfast trust in God, we give
voice to that cry using words from the Book of Lamentations
which are full of significance for both Jews and Christians:
"The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are
They are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness.
My portion is the Lord, says my soul; therefore will I hope in
Good is the Lord to the one who waits for him, to the soul that
It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord"
My dear friends, I am deeply grateful to God and to you for
the opportunity to stand here in silence: a silence to remember,
a silence to pray, a silence to hope.