Pope Francis's trip to Auschwitz brings both praise and criticism


The Pope is due to visit Auschwitz on Friday, as part of a five-day official trip to Poland.

Earlier this month Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland, hailed Pope Francis’s decision to visit Auschwitz as setting “an example for humanity.” However, the visit has already been the cause of some controversy.

In what will be the first Papal visit to the site in ten years - two previous popes have visited: John Paul II in 1979 and Pope Benedict in 2006 – Pope Francis has decided not to make a public speech at the site. He will instead engage in silent prayer in the cell where St Maximilian Kolbe, a Catholic priest, was killed. However, there is a certain amount of argument amongst historians as to whether Kolbe was himself an antisemite.

Additionally, a New York rabbi has called on Pope Francis to remove a Catholic Church based at Auschwitz Birkenau.

In a letter published on the Algemeiner Jewish news site, Rabbi Avi Weiss, of Riverdale, NY, said: “I have deep respect for people of all faiths, symbols and places of worship of all faiths, but a church does not belong at the largest Jewish cemetery in the world.

“It was Pope John Paul who demanded that the nuns leave the convent at Auschwitz One. I ask that you find similar courage and close the church at Birkenau, and have it moved elsewhere.”

Whilst at Auschwitz, the Pope will meet with ten Holocaust survivors, and will talk to representatives of the Jewish community in the nearby city of Krakow.

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