Pope Francis wants 'prayers and tears' not a sermon at Auschwitz death camp

Pope Francis in St Peter's Square yesterdayReuters

Pope Francis wants to mark the deaths of six million Jews and millions of other minorities with tears and prayers when he visits the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland at the end of this month.

He has dropped his original plan to preach a homily.

The Pope will visit Auschwitz-Birkenau on July 29, when he will be in Poland for the World Youth Day celebrations.

He had intended to speak at the international monument at Birkenau. St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI both delivered homilies at the monument during their visits.

The Pope has this week been visiting Armenia, when he also requested no speeches during his visit to the memorial to the Armenian genocide.  

On the flight back to Rome from Armenia, with reporters listening, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi asked the Pope about the Auschwitz homily: "I heard that you want to live that moment more with silence than words."

The Pope then spoke about his visit to Redipuglia in northern Italy in 2014 to for the 100th anniversary of World War I, and described walking alone among the graves."I went in silence. Then there was the Mass and I preached at Mass, but that was something else."

On Auschwitz, he continued: "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," he said, according to Catholic News Service.

Pope Benedict XVI pays respects by the death wall during his visit to the former Auschwitz death camp in 2006.Reuters

He has spoken and written often about the Holocaust. In the book On Heaven and Earth, he and his co-author Rabbi Abraham Skorka talk about it. "Each Jew that they killed was a slap in the face to the living God," he wrote. He also visited Israel's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem in 2014. 

He wrote in the Yad Vashem guestbook: "With shame for what man, who was created in the image of God, was able to do; with shame for the fact that man made himself the owner of evil; with shame that man made himself into god and sacrificed his brothers. Never again! Never again!"