Register Summary

Pope Benedict XVI met with 35,000 pilgrims during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square on May 31. He recalled some of the significant highlights of his recent four-day visit to Poland.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to revisit with you the various stages of the apostolic journey that I was able to make to Poland a few days ago. I am grateful to the Polish bishops, particularly the metropolitan archbishops of Warsaw and Krakow, for the enthusiasm and care with which they prepared my visit. Once again, I would like to express my gratitude to the president of the republic and to the different civil authorities of the country, as well as to all those who cooperated for the success of this event. Above all, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the Catholics and to the people of Poland, whose embrace full of human and spiritual warmth I felt. Many of you saw it on television. It was truly an expression of their Catholicity and of their love for the Church, which they expressed in their love for the Successor of Peter.

After my arrival at the airport in Warsaw, the cathedral of that important city was the site of my first appointment, which was reserved for priests and occurred on the very day that Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the shepherd of that archdiocese, was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Thus, my pilgrimage began under the sign of the priesthood and it then continued with a witness to a concern for ecumenism, which took place in the Lutheran church of the Most Holy Trinity. On that occasion, together with the representatives of the different churches and Church communities in Poland, I reiterated my firm intention to consider the commitment to the restoration of full and visible unity among Christians as a true priority of my ministry. Afterwards, there was the solemn Eucharistic celebration in Pilsudski Square in the center of Warsaw, which was full of people. This place, where we solemnly celebrated the Eucharist with joy, has now acquired a symbolic value, having hosted such historic events as the holy Masses that John Paul II celebrated there, as well as the funeral Mass for the Cardinal-Primate Stefan Wyszynski and, during the days following his death, some rather large celebrations for the repose of the soul of my venerated predecessor.

I could not fail to include in the program a visit to three shrines that were particularly significant in Karol Wojtyla’s life as a priest and bishop — the shrines of Czestochowa, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska and Divine Mercy. I will never forget my visit to the famous Marian shrine of Jasna Gora. On that “Bright Mountain” that is heart of the Polish nation, a multitude of the faithful — especially priests, nuns, seminarians and representatives of the movements in the Church — gathered around the Successor of Peter, as though they were once again in the upper room, to listen with me to Mary. Drawing inspiration from the wonderful Marian meditation that John Paul II gave the Church in his encyclical Redemptoris Mater, I once again presented the faith as a fundamental attitude of the spirit that is not something merely intellectual or sentimental. Authentic faith involves the whole person: his thoughts, emotions, intentions, relationships, physical body, activities and daily work. Later, while visiting the wonderful shrine of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska near Krakow, I asked Our Lady of Sorrows to sustain the faith of the Church community in times of trial and difficulty. My visit afterwards to the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki provided me with an opportunity to emphasize that only Divine Mercy sheds light on the mystery of man. In the convent near this shrine, while contemplating the luminous wounds of the risen Christ, Sister Faustina Kowalska received a message of trust for mankind — the message of Divine Mercy — which John Paul II echoed and explained. It is truly a key message, particularly for our times: mercy as God’s force and God’s defense against the evil of the world.

I visited other symbolic “shrines.” I refer here to Wadowice, which has become famous as the place where Karol Wojtyla was born and baptized. This visit provided me with the opportunity to thank the Lord for giving us this tireless servant of the Gospel. The roots of his robust faith, of his human sensitivity and openness, of his love for beauty and truth, of his devotion to the Virgin Mary, of his love for the Church and, above all, of his vocation to holiness are found in this small city where he received his early education and formation. The Wawel Cathedral in Krakow is another place that John Paul II loved and is a symbolic place for the Polish nation: Karol Wojtyla celebrated his first Mass in the crypt of that cathedral.

Another very beautiful experience was my meeting with young people, which took place in Krakow’s large Blonie Park. Symbolically I handed to the young people who came in great numbers a “Flame of Mercy,” so that they may be heralds of God’s love and mercy throughout the world. With them I meditated on the passage from the Gospel about the house built on rock (see Matthew 7:24-27), which we also read today at the beginning of this audience. I also paused to reflect on the word of God on Sunday morning, the solemnity of the Ascension, during the closing celebration of my visit. It was a liturgical gathering, which came alive through the extraordinary participation of the faithful, in the same park where my meeting with youth took place the night before. I took advantage of this opportunity to renew in the midst of the Polish people the wonderful proclamation of the Christian truth about man, who has been created and redeemed in Christ. This is the truth that John Paul proclaimed with such vigor on so many occasions in order to encourage everyone to remain steadfast in faith, hope and love. “Stand firm in the faith!” This is the duty that I entrusted to the beloved sons of daughters of Poland, encouraging them to persevere in faithfulness to Christ and to the Church so that Europe and the world will never lack their witness to the Gospel.

All Christians should feel a commitment to give this witness so as to ensure that the men and women of the third millennium may never again know the horrors like those that the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau tragically recalls.

Before returning to Rome, I wanted to stop at this place, which, sadly, is infamous throughout the world. In the camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, as in other similar camps, Hitler had more than 6 million Jews exterminated. In Auschwitz-Birkenau, some 150,000 Poles and tens of thousands of men and women of other nationalities also died. In the face of the horror of Auschwitz, the only response is the cross of Christ: the love that descended into the abyss of evil in order to save man at his very roots, where his freedom can rebel against God. May the men and women of this day never forget Auschwitz and the other “death factories” where the Nazi regime sought to eliminate God and to take his place! May they not give in to the temptation of racial hatred, which is at the origin of the worst forms of anti-Semitism! May men and women recognize once again that God is everyone’s Father and that he calls all of us in Christ to build together a world of justice, truth and peace! We want to ask this of the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, whom we contemplate diligently and lovingly today, as the month of May draws to an end, as she visits Elizabeth, her elderly relative.

(Register translation)