VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday (Aug. 9) likened the Nazi concentration camps that killed millions of Jews during World War II to “hell on earth.”
“Nazi death camps, like all extermination camps, can be considered extreme symbols of evil, of the hell that opens up on earth when man forgets God and substitutes Him, usurping His right to decide what is right and what is wrong, to give life and death,” he said.
The 82-year-old pontiff, who was forced to join the Hitler Youth in his childhood, was speaking to a crowd of Catholic faithful during the weekly Angelus service at the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo outside Rome.
He made the reflections while recalling two saints who were killed at concentration camps and canonized by his predecessor John Paul II.
Edith Stein, a Jewish-born Carmelite nun, and Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan friar who sacrificed himself so that a man with a family could live, were both killed in Poland at Auschwitz, which Benedict XVI visited in 2006.
Earlier this year, Benedict was severely criticized for rehabilitating a bishop who has denied elements of the Holocaust.
By Paul Virgo
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.