DACHAU, GERMANY – Archbishop Timothy P. Broglioled Catholics on a pilgrimage Saturday to the infamousDachau Concentration Camp in Germany, where tens of thousands of Jews, Catholic priests, and others suffered torture and death, before and during World War II, at the hands of the Nazis under Hitler. Approximately two-hundred pilgrims, including many active-duty U.S. servicemen and women and their families, members of the Military Council of Catholic Women (MCCW), theKnights of Columbus (K of C), and the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS), joined His Excellency in prayer, reflection, and remembrance to seek forgiveness and reconciliation for the sins of theHolocaust.
The pilgrims came in five buses from Catholic U.S. Military communities throughout Germany, converging on the somber site around 9:00 a.m. local time. One by one, and in small groups, they quietly wandered the grounds for hours, inspecting the barracks, viewing thecrematoria, and contemplating the unspeakable evil that transpired from 1933 until American troops liberated survivors on April 29, 1945. Then, at 3:30 p.m., the faithful gathered for Mass in the chapel of the Carmelite Convent of the Precious Blood. Archbishop Broglio was the principal celebrant and homilist. Concelebrating were Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer, Episcopal Vicar for Europe and Asia; Father James Betz, CH (LTC), USA, Ret.; Father Dino Besinga, CH (MAJ), USA; and Father James B. Collins, CH (MAJ), USA.
In his homily, Archbishop Broglio noted the purpose for the gathering at Dachau was “to learn and to say ‘never again.'” He took the opportunity to point out the lessons of the location for the current age:
“Government and political party are not absolutes. They must be held to a system of values. If something is legal, it is not necessary good or moral. Men and women died here, because of their religion, ethnic origins, handicaps, and their opposition to the Nazi regime. Dachau even boasts a priesterblock where priests were imprisoned, because they dared to oppose the evil in a regime.
“Coming here obliges us not to assign blame for what happened, but to ask ourselves what we do to ensure that it will not happen again. Our contemporary society easily moves closer to the inhumanity practiced here. Last weekend a three-year old child wandered into a gorilla pit in Cincinnati. A gorilla had to be shot. A hue and cry were heard to lament the death of the gorilla. I am sorry for the animal, but no animal compares to the life of a human person created in the image and likeness of God. If we fail to appreciate that inestimable value from conception to natural death, we can easily repeat what happened here.
“Let us renew our commitment to what is right, moral, and fulfills the dictates not of relativism, but of our conscience. Let us not leave this sanctuary of inhumanity without a renewal of our fidelity to Jesus Christ. Let our families be ‘a “shepherding” in mercy. Each of us, by our love and care, leaves a mark on the life of others; with Paul, we can say: “You are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts…not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.”‘” (Pope Francis, Amoris laetitia, 322.)