CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy – The Nazi death camps were places of extreme evil, the result of the Nazis claiming the power to decide what is good and what is bad and who should live and who should die, said Pope Benedict XVI.
The German-born pope spoke about the Nazis, freedom and evil during his Sunday Angelus address Aug. 9 at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.
Reflecting on the lives of saints whose feast days are celebrated in early August, the pope highlighted two who were martyred in Nazi death camps: St. Edith Stein and St. Maximilian Kolbe.
“These saints are witnesses of that charity that loves to the end and does not keep tally of the evil received, but combats it with good,” the pope said.
They are models for all Christians, especially priests, demonstrating “the evangelical heroism that pushes us, without fear of anything, to give our lives for the salvation of souls,” he said.
Pope Benedict said, “The Nazi concentration camps, like all death camps, can be considered extreme symbols of evil, of the hell that opens on earth when man forgets God and takes his place, usurping the right to decide what is good and what is bad, to give life and death.”
The pope said that while the Nazi death machine was an extreme example of what happens when people think they can play God “this sad phenomenon is not limited to the concentration camps.”
“There are philosophies and ideologies, but increasingly also ways of thinking and acting, that exalt freedom as the only principle for human beings,” making them think they are gods and the final judges of what is good and bad, he said.
Opposing that way of thinking and behaving, the pope said, there are the saints, who practice the Gospel of charity, showing the world “the real face of God, who is love, and at the same time the authentic face of the human person, created in the divine image and likeness.”