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CATHOLIC CHURCH CONSECRATED NEAR AUSCHWITZ DEATH CAMP

A stark new Catholic church, designed to recall "a horrific wound to all humanity," opened Sunday in this southern Polish town near the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

St. Joseph's Church was sponsored by the Italian Church in memory of all those murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau and of 40,000 Italians who died in various Nazi camps during World War II.

"I pray that this sanctuary will always recall not only the drama of the victims of hatred, but also the mystery of God's love, which banishes death and opens the gates of resurrection," Pope John Paul II said in a message read to about 1,000 people -- Poles and Italians -- at the consecration.

During the war, Nazis picked the Polish town they called Auschwitz to build the extermination camp complex where they murdered up to 1.5 million people, the overwhelming majority Jews.

Jewish organizations often have objected to the erection of Christian or other religious symbols on or right next to the former camp. But the new church is away from the site and has not evoked opposition from major Jewish bodies.

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