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A thundering silence

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A thundering silence

On the eve of Pope Francis”€™ visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp as part of his journey to Poland, the President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities sent him a message in Italian. The following is a translation of the letter in its entirety.

Dearest Pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio, destiny desired that a blessed land, the Land of Israel, unite us in our sentiments and intentions. But at the same time, and with immense suffering, destiny has demanded that there also be a cursed land, that of the extermination camps where in the heart of Europe, in the years of the Shoah, millions of innocent people were exterminated.

I write to you now on behalf of Italian Jews just days before your visit to the
Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.

The highly anticipated event will draw the attention of millions of people to that
dark page of history which is an open wound in the heart of Europe and which
continues to question the conscience of all those citizens who are urged, from
the depths of the heart, to defend peace, freedom and democracy.

I would like to say that I greatly appreciated your decision not to intervene
with a formal address but to concentrate the emotion of this most significant
visit in a long and intense silence. A form of prayer that thunders and that
will echo, I am certain, the cries and the pain of so many children, mothers,
young people, men who never returned from that land. Yours prayer together with so many of our own will render that land of suffering a place of worship.

Your visit is the emblem of an introspective course of rediscovery and defence of
the most profound values “€” respect for others and respect for life “€” that today
new and terrible enemies always seem to call into question, along with the
formidable losses that Italy, Europe, the whole world have been able to
overcome since the postwar period. The fruit of a pact between generations born
from the very ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau and of other places of death from
that season: democracy, European integration and the existence of Israel are
proof of the long journey travelled so as not to forget the tragic lesson of
the Shoah and to guarantee to everyone, without exception, a prosperous and
better future.

Never like today have religions and their leaders been called to be an example for all citizens, apart from single ideal, spiritual and cultural affiliations.

Thus a long journey of commitment and cooperation awaits us in the awareness that the elements that unite us are more numerous and more significant than those that divide us.

Only in this way can the cursed lands of extermination and hatred take on the
holiness of all the martyrs who in the name of love and tolerance sacrificed
their lives there.

Noemi Di Segni


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