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Posted: July 30, 2016

The silence was deafening when Pope Francis visited Auschwitz

Pope Francis walks through the gate of the former Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland, Friday, July 29, 2016. Pope Francis paid a somber visit to the Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau Friday, becoming 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. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Gregorio Borgia
Pope Francis walks through the gate of the former Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland, Friday, July 29, 2016. Pope Francis paid a somber visit to the Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau Friday, becoming 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. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

By Briana Altergott

OSWIECIM, Poland —

Pope Francis visited Auschwitz on Friday to pay his respects to the thousands of people who lost their lives there during World War II.

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He spent most of the historic visit at the former Nazi concentration camp in silent prayer and reflection.

Soon after his arrival, the pope sat alone on a bench for several minutes with his eyes closed.

Then, after meeting with a group of former inmates of the camp, he spent several more quiet moments inside the cell of Maximilian Kolbe. He was a Franciscan priest and saint who volunteered to take the place of a prisoner who was condemned to die.

Ahead of the trip, Pope Francis said he wanted it to be in silence.

He told reporters earlier this month: "I would like to go to that place of horror without speeches, without crowds — only the few people necessary. Alone, enter, pray. And may the Lord give me the grace to cry."

But before he left Auschwitz, the pope wrote a brief message in the memorial book.

"Lord, have mercy on your people. Lord, forgive us for so much cruelty."

Pope Francis is the third consecutive pope to visit the site, where more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed by Adolf Hitler's forces during World War II.


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