SEMINAR OF THE MINISTERS OF EDUCATION OF THE SIGNING COUNTRIES
STATEMENT OF ARCHBISHOP J. MICHAEL MILLER, C.S.B.*
Krakow-Auschwitz, 4 May 2005
At the outset I would like to express the gratitude of the Delegation of the Holy See to the Polish Authorities for organizing this timely conference and for the courtesy shown us in this historical city of Krakow and at the prestigious Jagellonian University, the cultural heart of the Polish Nation.
Auschwitz: 60th anniversary
We are gathered here to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp at Auschwitz.
Last January, in his Message for this occasion, Pope John Paul II stated: "No one is permitted to pass by the tragedy of the Shoah. That attempt at the systematic destruction of an entire people falls like a shadow on the history of Europe and the whole world; it is a crime which will for ever darken the history of humanity" (John-Paul II, Message for the 60th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Prisoners of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Death Camp, 15 January 2005).
Such a programme of hatred must serve, today and for the future, as a warning to us never to yield to ideologies which in any way justify contempt for human dignity on the basis of race, colour, language or religion.
We now remember this suffering in order to pay honour to the dead, to acknowledge historical reality and above all to ensure that those terrible events will serve as a summons for all men and women to ever greater responsibility for our common history.
In various European countries many Catholic educational institutions have joined in the celebration of "The Day of Remembrance and the Prevention of Crimes Against Humanity" and in other similar initiatives. Such endeavours in schools and other centres of learning contribute towards keeping the memory of those tragic events alive, thereby offering fresh opportunities for reflection and self-examination.
Testimony of great spiritual value
The remembering of unspeakable horrors enables us to recall the heroic examples of commitment to goodness and generosity which also accompanied such persecution.
Many suffered with dignity, demonstrating love towards their fellow prisoners and even towards their tormentors. A testimony of such great spiritual value cannot fail to awaken consciences so that all will be inspired to work for peace.
Memory plays a necessary role in the process of shaping a future in which the past iniquities of such a horrendous catastrophe will never again be repeated. This anniversary calls all men and women of good will to assume moral responsibility for ensuring that never again will selfishness and hatred grow to the point of sowing such suffering and death.
The Holy See is grateful for the commitment to dialogue and to the prevention of conflicts and crimes against humanity. Through such a commitment, the teaching of remembrance through a nation's cultural heritage will become an ever more useful instrument for learning from the past and for safeguarding human dignity.
The Holy See also follows with great interest the programmes of the Council of Europe. Such projects manifest a common effort to contribute, through education and culture, to the building of a more united and democratic Europe, respectful of diversity and aware of its spiritual foundation.
*L'Osservatore Romano 21.5.2005 p.2.