Statement by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial (Jerusalem, 27 May 2014)

Statement by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial (Jerusalem, 27 May 2014)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are very grateful to God for the opportunity once again to visit this remarkable monument today, and to honor the solemn memories commemorated here. Just a few days ago, we walked through the gates of Dachau. In that place of such incomprehensible pain, our heart was grieved and we mourned deeply at the realization of the human potential for destruction.

These emotions returned as we took the walkway down into the children's memorial. It seemed as if we had entered the abode of the dead. The location of the memorial under the earth vividly represents the inexplicable loss that was the Shoah, the Holocaust.

All who descend into the inner chamber of the museum are free to walk away when they chose, and return to the sunlight. Such was not the case for these 1.5 million children whose lives were taken from them through hatred and unspeakable violence.

As difficult as it was to look into the faces of these precious children, who represent all of the slaughtered innocents, we must do so . . . and we must remember.

On this day, we realize that if we turn away from the pain and sadness of the remembrance of what may have been humanity's greatest tragedy, generations to come may deny the reality, which is memorialized in this place.

Already 70 years have come and gone, and for some, the Holocaust seems to be a story from the distant past. Yet, we still have not completely healed. What is more tragic is that we have not fully comprehended the lessons of this singular event in world history.

The hatred, suspicion, and desire to dominate or even extinguish another culture are still lurking within the hearts of many. With every symbolic rekindling of the flame in this place, another flame of war, or kidnapping, or oppression is rekindled somewhere in the world.

We condemn every act of terrorism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia. We must publicly profess that a crime against believers of any faith is an abomination in the face of God.

Dear friends, we have read in the prophet Jeremiah's writings that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17.9) This museum is a testimony to the reality of humanity's capacity to be deceived by the enemy of God, and to act in unthinkable ways and to commit unspeakable atrocities.

The future can be no better than the past, if people from all cultures, religions, and political thought do not learn well the lessons of the Shoah. Great tyranny and oppression were stopped in some small way by ordinary people, many of whom are commemorated in the Garden of the Righteous among the Nations.

  Each person here in Israel, and throughout the world, has the power to make choices that lead to life, health and peace. May we all have the wisdom to recognize the deception of oppression, and find the courage to stand in solidarity to oppose those who would someday repeat the horror of the Shoah.

In closing, we must mention the hope that this memorial brings to the world. We have never been in a place, which more clearly illustrates the truth that, even in the depths of the earth, in the darkest room, there is light.

The millions of little lights here bear witness to the reality that God has not forsaken the world. He is all-powerful and governs the affairs of humanity. In the midst of tragedy, He stands ready to rekindle every heart that is broken, and to restore those who have suffered great harm. What the Psalmist wrote is still true:  "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins" (Proverbs 10.12)

May those memorialized in this place rest in peace, and may their memory be eternal.

Thank you. May God bless you all.