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Christmas and Auschwitz

Advent 1997
Originally printed in "Spes Nostra" Vol.5 No.6
A few months ago I went as a pilgrim to Poland, precisely to Auschwitz, not only to see the progress of the construction of the "Fr. Kolbe Center," but also to return to St. Maximilian's cell and absorb his spirit.. His presence is almost tangible there and luminously gives witness to the hope fo the Gospel, which more than ever needs to be reawakened in the hearts of all people. As I stood in prayer by the death cell of Fr. Kolbe, this humble man, who lived radically the Lord's Gospel, once again entrusted me with a message full of responsibility. 
Yes, in the midst of today's problems and tragedies, which newspapers and TV broadcast continually, we can no longer sit back, watching at the window. It's time for us to participate in the making of history by sowing the seed of wisdom and holiness, of peace and mercy, in union with all people of good will who, silently yet tenaciously, work for reconciliation between nations, peoples, families, and individuals. 
In this way, in today's world, the Gospels victorious light will continue to shine and point out the way of peace which the Word made flesh came to open for all to enter into and find life eternal. 
At Auschwitz death-camp I couldn't help but recall the Holy Father's words: "History carries with it a heavy burden of violence and conflict which cannot easily be shed. The truth is that one cannot remain a prisoner of the past, for individuals and people need a sort of healing of memories so that past evils will not come back again. This does not mean forgetting events; it means re-examining them with a new attitude and learning precisely from the experience of suffering that only love can build up, whereas hatred produces devastation and ruin. The deadly cycle of revenge must be replaced by the new-found liberty of forgiveness" (John Paul II Message for World Day of Peace 1997). These inspired words re-echo Kolbe's motto: "Love alone creates!"
While the Christmas Season approaches, dear friends, let us make it our aim to walk faithfully on the path of forgiveness and reconciliation in order "to set out together on a true pilgrimage of peace, starting from the concrete situation in which we find ourselves" (ibid.). It will be truly Christmas again in our world and the Son of God, born of Mary, will bring redemption to every individual and all humanity. 
United in joyful and ardent prayer with his Most Holy Mother...