70th anniversary of the death of Edith Stein
Approximately 300 worshipers attended the 70th celebration anniversary of the death of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross — Edith Stein - which took place in the former German Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz.
Catholics and representatives of the Polish Council of Christians and Jews walked along the railway siding in the former camp of Birkenau , where, from May 1944, trains full of deportees made their final stop. During the prayer walk, which constitutes symbolic participation in the last journey of Edith Stein, attention was paid to the fact that even though many Christians opposed the Nazi and tried to help the persecuted, the resistance and acts of the majority were not, however, such as could have been expected from Christ’s disciples.
“We know and recognise that many Christians - including representatives of churches — had failed and were guilty. We are extremely saddened by the damage caused to Jews by Christians throughout the centuries, especially during World War II,” said prof. Henryk Seweryniak, a priest from the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw.
The holy mass was presided over by the primate of Hungary, Cardinal Peter Erdo, president of the Council of European Bishops, and was attended by representatives of the Episcopates of Poland and Germany. Cardinal Erdo pointed out that Edith Stein is one of the co-patrons of Europe: “Today when we contemplate the fundamental values of European culture, we must also consider the Judeo-Christian heritage. One cannot be a Christian without respecting the roots of Christianity,” he noted.
Piotr M.A. Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz Memorial Site, pointed out that although Edith Stein, as a philosopher and theologian, is a prominent figure, she was not the only example of a Jewess or a Jew who converted to Catholicism and was still murdered. “For the Nazi, the issue of somebody’s beliefs or religious or philosophical identity was not significant; for them, the racial issue was important. If someone was born a Jew, with Jewish parents, he was a Jew and was murdered,” said Cywiński.
The director also stressed that among the participants was Stanisław Krajewski, co-chairman of the Polish Council of Christians and Jews. “This event is a joint celebration: together with us, the Christians, the Jewish people walk, and this is good … normal — This is how it should be, that the Holocaust, as the drama of the whole of Europe, should be something that unites all people who feel any empathy for the millions of Jews murdered during the Holocaust in the years 1942-1944.”
Edith Stein was born in 1891 in Wrocław in a devout Jewish family. At the age of 30, she converted to Catholicism, and twelve years later, she joined the Carmelite order, where she took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. At the beginning of August 1942, the nun was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in the camp of Westerbork, from where transports were leaving for extermination sites in eastern Europe under the framework of the so-called “final solution of the Jewish question.” On 9 August, after the transport arrived at Auschwitz, the Nazis murdered her in a gas chamber along with 522 other Jews who were condemned to death on this day during selection.
John Paul II beatified Teresa Benedicta of the Cross in 1987, and 11 years later she was promoted to sainthood. August 9th is attributed to the anniversary of the death of the saint, and for the Catholic Church, this is also a day of prayers for the victims of the Holocaust.