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The Latest: Pope Meets Auschwitz Survivors at Death Wall

Friday, 29 July 2016 04:55 AM

OSWIECIM, Poland (AP) — The Latest on Pope Francis' visit to Poland (all times local):

10:35 a.m.

Pope Francis has met a group of survivors during his visit to the former German Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, shaking their hands, kissing them on the cheeks and stroking the heads of some of them.

The meeting took place Friday by the Auschwitz Death Wall, where inmates, chiefly Polish resistance fighters, were executed.

Some of the survivors made Francis offerings that were linked to their suffering. One offered a copy of a black-and-white picture, indicating he was in it.

Earlier, some of the inmates told The Associated Press they were excited about meeting the pope, a great authority to them.

"This is a huge thing for me," said 100-year-old Alojzy Fros.

10:30 a.m.

Pope Francis has left Auschwitz and has traveled the two miles (3 kilometers) to nearby Birkenau, a part of the deadly death complex where about a million of Europe's Jews were murdered in gas chambers.

There he is to meet with 25 Christian Poles who risked their own lives to help Jews during the German occupation of their country during World War II.

Israel's Yad Vashem has recognized 6,620 Poles as so-called "Righteous Among the Nations," more than from any other country — a reflection of the fact that Poland was hope to the largest Jewish community in Europe before the Holocaust.

Francis will also meet with several representatives of the country's Jewish community, which before the war was Europe's largest but is now tiny due to the Holocaust and post-war anti-Semitism that pushed many to leave Poland.

10 a.m.

Pope Francis has prayed in the dark underground prison cell at Auschwitz of a Catholic saint, Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Catholic friar who sacrificed his own life during the war to save the life of another man.

A few shafts of light from a tiny window were the only light cast on the white figure of the pope, who knelt for many minutes as he prayed before he crossed himself and rose to his feet.

9:50 a.m.

Pope Francis has met with several survivors of the Auschwitz death camp during a historic visit to the memorial site in southern Poland.

One by one, he stopped, shook their hands and bent over to kiss the elderly survivors on both cheeks.

One woman kissed his hand. He also took time to exchange a few words with them, though what they said was not audible.

He then carried a large white candle and placed it at the Death Wall, where prisoners were executed.

9:20 a.m.

Pope Francis has walked beneath the notorious "Arbeit Macht Frei" gate at Auschwitz, beginning a somber visit to the Nazi German death camp.

He then was driven into a small car along a path lined by barracks, and is to pray at the site of executions and meet with camp survivors.

He has become the third consecutive pontiff to make the pilgrimage to the place where Adolf Hitler's forces killed more than 1 million people, most of them Jews. But Francis is the first pope to visit who has no personal connection to the site.

John Paul II hailed from Poland, which was under German occupation, while Benedict XVI was a German.

8:55 a.m.

Pope Francis is traveling to the former Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau for a somber visit at the site of suffering.

With his visit on Friday he will become the third consecutive pontiff to make the pilgrimage to the place where Adolf Hitler's forces killed more than 1 million people, most of them Jews.

Vatican and Polish church officials have said that Francis will express his sorrow in silence at the site, mourning the victims in quiet prayer and meditation.

Francis had been scheduled to fly from Krakow to Oswiecim, the small town where the former death camp is located, but due to bad weather he traveled the 65 kilometers (40 miles) by car instead.

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The Latest on Pope Francis' visit to Poland (all times local):10:35 a.m.Pope Francis has met a group of survivors during his visit to the former German Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, shaking their hands, kissing them on the cheeks and stroking the heads of some of them.The...
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Friday, 29 July 2016 04:55 AM
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