Tuesday, May 30, 2006

His Own Pilgrimage

On the papal visit to Auschwitz on Sunday, the images of Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne in tears struck a chord with many people.

Only later did I learn that, like many survivors of the camps and their descendants who have no burial spot where they could pay tribute to their deceased loved ones, the remains of the cardinal's father are somewhere in Serbia, in a mass grave. And that, from Poland, Meisner was headed to the Balkans to dedicate the restored Archbishop's Residence in the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

As Cologne is one of Europe's -- and the world's -- most fiscally-solvent local churches, it wouldn't be a stretch to believe that the cardinal has supported the small Catholic community there, especially given the personal tie to the place.

Knowing that, after Auschwitz, Meisner would be going to Serbia, "where he would love to pray at the grave of his father," one op noted that it was natural for the cardinal to be "a bit emotional."

Indeed it would be, and indeed it was.

PHOTO: Reuters/Katarina Stoltz