We need to be reminded of lessons we vow never to forget.
When Pope Francis visited each stop on his Holy Land pilgrimage last weekend, he delivered short but poignant messages, keeping with the way Francis addresses everything he sees and sums up concerning problems for global humanity.
They were each poignant, relevant, challenging, true and incisive. I followed them all, and thought the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial message was stunning.
The day after his return to Rome, Vatican expert analyst George Weigel was my guest on radio for an hour of compelling conversation about this Middle East visit, Pope Francis, what Christianity proposes to the modern world (which is the same as what it proposed to the ancient world), and the Church engaging current global affairs. Weigel is the world's pre-eminent papal biographer (with a two-volume analysis and commentary on the life of John Paul II).
He made a very interesting point that after John Paul's Yad Vashem address during his March 2000 pilgrimage, one might think nothing said there could be as profound.
Weigel vividly recalled the opening of that address .
In this place of memories, the mind and heart and soul feel an extreme need for silence. Silence in which to remember. Silence in which to try to make some sense of the memories which come flooding back. Silence because there are no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Shoah.
I have come to Yad Vashem to pay homage to the millions of Jewish people who, stripped of everything, especially of their human dignity, were murdered in the Holocaust. More than half a century has passed, but the memories remain.
How powerful a remembrance, one that seared our consciousness. But George went on to say that what Francis said last weekend at Yad Vashem was quite startling and profound, and probably at least equaled the depth of John Paul's message.
Francis spoke from scripture readings that posed the voice of God, and it was powerful.
"Adam, where are you?" (cf. Gen 3:9). Where are you, o man? What have you come to? In this place, this memorial of the Shoah, we hear God's question echo once more: "Adam, where are you?" This question is charged with all the sorrow of a Father who has lost his child…
Adam, who are you? I no longer recognize you. Who are you, o man? What have you become? Of what horror have you been capable? What made you fall to such depths?…
Who corrupted you? Who disfigured you? Who led you to presume that you are the master of good and evil? Who convinced you that you were god?
At this point, I had two thoughts, beyond a visceral reaction to so breathtaking an indictment.
One, the timely, insightful book my friend Elizabeth Scalia published just before Francis was elected pope, Strange Gods . From the beginning of his papacy Francis has warned often of idolatry.
And two, the fitting analogy of the abortion culture. "What made you fall to such depths…Who led you to presume that you are the master of good and evil? Who convinced you that you were god? Not only did you torture and kill your brothers and sisters, but you sacrificed them to yourself, because you made yourself a god."
On Wednesday, preparing for an hour with National Review Online's Kathryn Lopez, co-founder of Catholic Voices USA, we collaborated on what we saw as important topics to cover in fast and fleeting time, there was so much. It was the day a Tweetfest was planned by abortion activists claiming that #WomensHealth called for the global body of the United Nations to tie 'reproductive rights' (euphemism for abortion) to binding international documents. Kathryn and I both saw the tie-in.
Were you to do a Google search for "International Day of Women's Health," as I just did, the first link you would find is from the Center for Reproductive Health. There you would learn that:
"On May 28, the Center for Reproductive Rights joins health and women's rights advocates from around the world in commemorating the International Day of Action for Women's Health. The Center also calls on governments to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception, which is essential to improve women and adolescent girls' health."
Sexual and reproductive health services. That's one of those phrases abortion-rights activists use when they don't want to say abortion. Which is why there should be no tears shed for the "women's health" lobby when they complain that their day was "hijacked" by pro-life activists today [May 28].
Kathryn included some remarkable screen shots for this post , check it out. By a long shot, the pro-life movement overtook Twitter with messages that countered the abortion propaganda of that day's campaign. Her post captured the extreme lengths abortion activists have gone to for the right to end new human life.
Think about that. The right to end life at will.
And remember the Shoah. As John Paul II did .
Here, as at Auschwitz and many other places in Europe, we are overcome by the echo of the heart-rending laments of so many. Men, women and children cry out to us from the depths of the horror that they knew. How can we fail to heed their cry? No one can forget or ignore what happened. No one can diminish its scale.
We wish to remember. But we wish to remember for a purpose, namely to ensure that never again will evil prevail, as it did for the millions of innocent victims of Nazism.
"No one can forget or ignore what happened. No one can diminish its scale." What is happening in abortion clinics every day cannot be ignored and vast numbers of women, men, siblings of those now lost will not forget. No one can diminish the scale of the population lost to abortion, close to 57 million babies in the US alone since Roe v. Wade, and countless numbers beyond. Watching those numbers tick up so rapidly moves some of us urgently to try to stop it.
Pope Francis at Yad Vashem , last weekend.
Almighty Lord, a soul in anguish cries out to you. Hear, Lord, and have mercy! We have sinned against you. You reign for ever (cf. Bar 3:1-2). Remember us in your mercy. Grant us the grace to be ashamed of what we men have done, to be ashamed of this massive idolatry, of having despised and destroyed our own flesh which you formed from the earth, to which you gave life with your own breath of life. Never again, Lord, never again!
"Adam, where are you?" Here we are, Lord, shamed by what man, created in your own image and likeness, was capable of doing.
Remember us in your mercy.