ROME (JTA) – Pope Francis will visit Auschwitz during a trip to Poland in late July.
According to a schedule released over the weekend, the pontiff will visit the former Nazi death camp on July 29 during a five-day visit to Poland to mark the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day.
Main Youth Day events are to take place in Krakow, about 40 miles from Auschwitz.
Francis will be the third pontiff to visit Auschwitz, where the Nazis murdered about 1.5 million people, the vast majority of them Jews. Polish-born Pope John Paul II was the first pontiff to visit Auschwitz, in 1979. His successor, the German-born Benedict XVI, visited in 2006.
Catholic Poles, Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, Soviet prisoners of war and political prisoners were also murdered at Auschwitz. Among the victims were two people now revered as Roman Catholic saints – Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan friar, and the Jewish-born philosopher Edith Stein, who converted to Catholicism as a teenager and became a Carmelite nun.
Auschwitz is now a memorial museum; last year it had 1.7 million visitors. Administrators of the site have announced special visiting conditions aimed at the hundreds of thousands of young people expected to converge on Krakow for World Youth Day.