Pope Benedict XVI Makes Historic Visit to Israel
Moving Memorial Ceremony Takes
Place at Yad Vashem
On May 11, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI visited
Yad Vashem where he took an active part in a memorial ceremony in the
Hall of Remembrance, thereby conveying an influential message
regarding the importance of Holocaust remembrance to Catholic
followers and believers. A
visit of the utmost importance, it will
increase Holocaust awareness around the world.
As the Pope arrived at Yad Vashem, he was greeted by Chairman of Yad
Vashem Avner Shalev, President of Israel Shimon Peres, Speaker of the
Knesset Reuven Rivlin and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi
Israel Meir Lau. Among the dignitaries, guests and valued partners of
Yad Vashem who welcomed the Pope were Benefactors Marcos Katz of
Mexico, Yossi and Dana Hollander of the USA and Israel, and Ed Mosberg
of the USA and Israel. An a capella choir of young women opened the ceremony
singing a stirring rendition of
“A Walk to Casearea,” a poem written
by the young Chana Senesz in 1942, composed shortly before she left on
her mission to Nazi-occupied Europe from which she did not return.
After rekindling the eternal flame, the Pope laid a memorial wreath,
praying before the crypt containing the ashes of Jews murdered in the
extermination camps. The Pope then greeted
six Holocaust survivors and
Righteous Among the Nations, stopping to shake hands and have a
short conversation with each of them. The traditional prayer for the
Jewish dead, “El Maleh Rachamim” was then sung by a cantor.
addressed the assembled group of
guests, dignitaries and media, stressing the importance of remembering
the victims of the Holocaust and their identities, which are embodied
by their names. Expressing respect and compassion for the victims, he
spoke of his gratitude for having “the opportunity to stand here in
silence: a silence to remember, a silence to pray, a silence to hope. ”His
remarks referred to Holocaust denial and the need to recall the
suffering of the victims.
Holocaust Art Presented to the
Yad Vashem presented the Pope with an exceptional gift, a facsimile of
a painting by the Jewish artist Felix Nussbaum who was murdered in the
Holocaust. The painting addresses Nussbaum’s Jewish identity and
faith, which took central stage in his creative endeavors only in the
midst of the Holocaust. The original painting,
Camp Synagogue, is on
display at the Museum of Holocaust Art at Yad Vashem.
Signing the guest book, the Pope ended his visit writing: “His
mercies are not spent,” quoting from the book of Lamentations. The
entire gathering then stood and sang “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national
anthem, concluding the visit.
More information about the visit can be found on