Read the daily quote from Pope Francis


2016 DF 37

Dear Friends,

Years ago I decided that someday I would go to Auschwitz in Poland.  Even before my work with the Jews and Inter-religion for the Diocese I knew I needed to do this.  Hitler’s plan to destroy and eliminate the Jews was so diabolical and so successful that it boggles the mind.  The temptation is to think that this could never happen again but human beings constantly walk a tenuous line between good and evil.   Places like Auschwitz have to stay standing for the human family, as a constant reminder of what can go terribly wrong.

Arriving, one finds Auschwitz to be very quiet.  The grass has grown green and lovely over places where people were beaten and murdered.  The wind silently moves through your hair.  It is difficult to believe that this was once a living hell.  It is here and in other Nazi camps that approximately 50,000 priests were also murdered.  Gypsies were targeted as were Jehovah Witnesses and homosexuals.

The evil unleashed remains a vivid memory of those survivors who are now quickly disappearing, a generation passing away.  When I was in Rome, I was told that Pope Pius XII, on at least three occasions that we know of, conducted the exorcism rite over Hitler.  He was convinced that Hitler was possessed by the devil.

Hitler was born into a Catholic family but by his adult years had renounced his Catholic faith.  General Karl Wolff, the SS commander in Italy was interviewed by journalist Dan Kurzman in 1972 where he revealed that Hitler planned to pillage the Vatican and take Pope Pius XII prisoner.  Wolff reported that both men loathed each other.  Wolff reports that Hitler could not stomach the “Jew-loving” pope and had planned to liberate Mussolini, return him to power and occupy Rome and “destroy the Vatican’s power, capture the pope, and say that we are protecting him.”

By God’s grace this never happened but it is clear that after the Jews, Hitler had his sight set on others.  Even today, after taking his own life, the influence of Hitler is still felt among groups that admire him and consider themselves heirs to his legacy, neo-Nazis.  It gives credence to the Pope’s sense that there was more to Hitler, a will dominated by evil and surrendered to its own directions.  Still, that evil reaches from the grave and influences people to hate.    

The power of evil can be bewildering.  Then we see the light, the good souls, the Jews who loved their families, their culture and their religion.  Priests and nuns who would rather die first than deny their faith; good people who got caught up in a demonic whirlwind of impossible proportions.

As Catholics we bear a responsibility to uphold the teachings of Christ, even if necessary at the cost of our lives.  We believe that we are the Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself and with that comes the responsibility to be different, molded not by the world but by the God-Man.  It is a test that only you can endure and one that you must succeed in. 

Fr Al