This weekend Pope Francis said aloud what so many have been afraid to admit for so long. We knew what was happening during WWII and we did nothing to stop it.
He said, in a pastoral visit to Turin: “The great powers had photographs of the railway routes that the trains took to the concentration camps, like Auschwitz, to kill the Jews, and also the Christians, and also the Roma, also the homosexuals,” Francis said, citing the death camp in Poland. “Tell me, why didn’t they bomb” those railroad routes?” (Huff Post Religions, 6/21/2015)
Francis continued with remarks about how the leaders – those who could make a difference – did not use their authority to condemn, to order their military, to stand on the railroad tracks – to stop so many deaths.
During my life, I have read so many “official statements” including some from the pens of religious leaders, claiming there was nothing we could do to save the victims of the Holocaust and other killing campaigns. Some claimed they did not even know what was going on. People who lived in the neighborhoods of the camps claim not to have noticed the smoke rising into the black sky, as if they were simply inconvenienced by the disruption of their lives.
We must speak the truth. We must give voice to those truths of which we are ashamed – or should be. Doing nothing is a sin, too. I met people in North Dakota (USA) who were living here during the War, who received a letter here or there from relatives who dared to speak of the camps, and the deaths. They knew, but they were powerless, as their relatives – clinging to life, were still under death sentence.
I will not state that adage, “The truth will set you free.” The truth – openly spoken, reflected upon, shared – does comes with a responsibility to react. And today’s challenge, so obvious in so many sad settings where lives are taken, where people are oppressed, where race is a target to be brought down, is a CHANGE OF HEART.
I cannot change the world. I can change my own heart. I can tell my friend. That is a start. Some times it takes a Pope to get the ball rolling … It is out there now! Before a “panel of politicians” weighs in with their “fluff,” may they remain quiet and realize this message is for them, too.