17:56 Jul. 29, 2016
The pontiff prays in silence at former Nazi death camp
After arriving at the museum and memorial to the 1.1 million people killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau during the second world war, the pope sat alone on a bench for several minutes of sombre contemplation and prayer.
Francis had said he wanted his visit – the third by a pope – to be conducted in silence. "I would like to go to that place of horror without speeches, without crowds – only the few people necessary. Alone, enter, pray. And may the Lord give me the grace to cry."
His only public words were written in the Auschwitz guest book: "Lord, have pity on your people. Lord, forgive so much cruelty."
At Block 11, Francis met a group of former inmates of the camp and some of those hailed as "righteous among nations" for risking their lives to save Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
After signing a visitors' book, Francis went to Birkenau, an adjacent camp, where he was to meet more former inmates and people who helped to save Jews.
Accompanying the pope was Father Stanisław Ruszała, the parish priest of Markowa, where in 1942 the parishioners Józef and Wiktoria Ulma and their seven children were shot dead for sheltering eight Jews. Also present were the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, and prime minister, Beata Szydło.
The vast majority of those who died at Aushwitz-Birkenau were Jewish, but thousands of Polish Catholics, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war also lost their lives.