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Pope Francis to Visit Auschwitz Ahead of Catholic World Youth Day in Krakow

Jews from all over the world place small placards in front of the main railway building at the former Nazi death camp of Birkenau (Auschwitz II) in Oswiecim, southern Poland, May 2, 2011. Thousands of mainly Jewish people participated in the 17th annual 'March of the Living,' a Holocaust commemoration.
Jews from all over the world place small placards in front of the main railway building at the former Nazi death camp of Birkenau (Auschwitz II) in Oswiecim, southern Poland, May 2, 2011. Thousands of mainly Jewish people participated in the 17th annual "March of the Living," a Holocaust commemoration. | (Photo: Reuters/Peter Andrews)

Pope Francis will meet with Holocaust survivors and visit the Auschwitz concentration camp next Friday, but instead of making a speech he will carry out his visit "in silent pain, compassion and tears."

According to Catholic News Service, Fr. Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, president of the Polish bishop's conference, said the pope's decision to remain silent at Auschwitz is deeply meaningful.

"In the world there are two very parallel places. The first is the Wailing Wall and the second is the wailing place. The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, and the wailing place in Auschwitz-Birkenau in the German Nazi concentration camp," Rytel-Andianik said.

His choice to forego speaking "is very important for the Jewish people, and for Poles," he continued, noting that his own grandfather was a prisoner who escaped the camp.

Francis will also meet with 10 people, including a 101-year-old woman who survived the concentration camp, and the Prime Minister of Poland Beata Szydło. The pontiff is also scheduled to visit the cell of the Polish martyr St. Maximilian Kolbe, a prisoner in the camp who voluntarily gave up his life in place of another man who had a wife and children. The pope's visit will mark 75 years to the day when the Nazis condemned Kolbe to death.

His tour of Auschwitz will be a prelude to World Youth Day, which will be held in Krakow. Following in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II, Francis will stay in the archbishop's residence for the duration of his trip and will appear every night from the balcony to greet pilgrims.

According to Breitbart News, hundreds of thousands of people from 187 different countries are registered to attend, including representatives from Kosovo, Bangladesh, Palestine, Myanmar and South Sudan, who have never been represented before at the World Youth Day.

The global reality "of anti-Christian persecution will also be highlighted at the event, and young people from countries where persecution is most virulent have been encouraged to come to find solace among members of the universal Church," Breitbart reports.

"Through WYD these young people have the possibility to see that they are not alone in their Faith. And it gives them the momentum and motivation in their own countries to act as missionaries to other young people," said Regina Lynch, who heads the Project Department at Aid to the Church Need International.

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