PARIS, DEC. 13, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI expressed shock when he looked at the documents that showed the scale of the Nazi-led massacre of Jews in the Ukraine during World War II.
The Pope wrote a letter on this topic to Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, retired archbishop of Paris, on the occasion of the 3rd European Encounter Between Jews and Catholics, promoted by the European Jewish Congress.
The event, held Dec. 4 in Paris, gathered some 700 representatives of Judaism and the Catholic Church, including a Vatican representative, Cardinal Georges Cottier.
During the encounter Patrick Desbois presented the results of his investigation in the Ukraine of the mass graves where more than 1 million Jews were buried by the Nazis in the wake of the invasion of 1941.
Cardinal Lustiger reported to Benedict XVI these discoveries, and in response, the Pope wrote a letter to the prelate, dated Dec. 1, to express his support.
“Upon reading your letter, and the documents sent previously, I was shocked to realize to what point the power of evil took possession of our people, making it possible for something so monstrous to take place, as what is revealed in these documents,” wrote the German-born Pontiff.
“Until now I had never heard of these systematic assassination campaigns in the Ukraine that had preceded the horror of the extermination camps of Jews,” the Holy Father stated.
The Pope continued: “Only now have I been able to conceive what the demonic powers of evil, which had reigned for 12 years over our people, had been able to carry out, by the complete overthrow of moral obligations and the destruction of consciences, to a level that would be impossible to believe, if it had not been established with alarming precision.”
He invited the cardinal “to pray without ceasing to the Lord so that he protects us from these powers in the future.”
At the same time the Holy Father confirmed the “consoling” fact that “the Ukrainian metropolitan of the time had taken a clear position against these practices, and that today there are Catholic priests that endeavor to clarify the truth.”
The European Encounter Between Jews and Catholics offered the opportunity to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s declaration “Nostra Aetate,” which marked a historic turn in Jewish-Catholic relations.
The event also recognized the work done by Pope John Paul II to foster mutual relations.