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Pope Marks Holocaust Remembrance Day, Calls For End To Hatred

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI said the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day calls humanity to work to overcome all forms of hatred and racism and to respect the dignity of each human person.

Praying the Angelus Jan. 27 with visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square, the pope called attention to the international day for remembering the victims of the Nazis.

"The memory of this immense tragedy, which so harshly struck the Jewish people most of all, must represent for everyone a constant warning so that the horrors of the past are not repeated, all forms of hatred and racism are overcome and respect for the dignity of the human person is promoted," the pope said.

Pope Benedict later invoked the intercession of Sts. Damien de Veuster and Marianne Cope of Molokai, Hawaii, as he also marked World Leprosy Day.

In a statement released Jan. 25, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, said the fact that some 220,000 men, women and children contracted Hansen's disease in 2011 demonstrates that too many people do not have adequate access to health education and basic health care and that a strong stigma still is attached to the disease, which prevents people from seeking a diagnosis and treatment.

For the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Benedict was joined by a boy and a girl representing some 3,000 members of the children's section of Catholic Action Rome. An annual meeting with the pope marks the end of the youngsters' "Caravan of Peace," a project that raises awareness and money to help other children living in situations of tension and conflict.

In parishes throughout Rome, the children raised money this year for the Jesuit-run "Art and Life" project that benefits street children in Alexandria, Egypt.

Keeping an annual tradition, the pope told the children, "Now, let's release the doves, symbols of the Spirit of God who gives peace to those who welcome his love."

The pope and the kids released two doves from the window of the pope's apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square. Unusually this year, neither of the birds flew back into the papal apartment, prompting the pope to say, "That was successful."

However, a few minutes later, a large sea gull swooped down on one of the doves. The dove did manage to escape.