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According to the report, the pope's message came in response to a sermon sent to the Vatican by the professor, Menachem Rosensaft, along with a personal note.
Rosensaft, who teaches about the law of genocide and war crime trials at Columbia and Cornell, is the son of two Holocaust survivors. In his sermon, Rosensaft said he believes that God's presence gave his father strength to pray though his imprisonment and torture, and empowered his mother to rescue 149 children at a Nazi concentration camp.
Francis responded in a short email, which was quoted by The Washington Post:
“When you, with humility, are telling us where God was in that moment, I felt within me that you had transcended all possible explanations and that, after a long pilgrimage – sometimes sad, tedious or dull – you came to discover a certain logic and it is from there that you were speaking to us; the logic of First Kings 19:12, the logic of that 'gentle breeze' (I know that it is a very poor translation of the rich Hebrew expression) that constitutes the only possible hermeneutic interpretation.
“Thank you from my heart. And, please, do not forget to pray for me. May the Lord bless you.”
Rosensaft said that the pope’s message “is a tremendous spiritual gift” that gave meaning to survivors of any act of violence, according to the report.
“What I have tried to say in my sermon, which is why it is so gratifying to have Pope Francis validate this, was that God was not the perpetrator of the horrors but God’s divine presence is in the continued humanity of the victims, that the divine presence was within those who rescued, who saved, who helped,” the professor was quoted as saying.