Pope Francis prays in silence at former Auschwitz-Birkenau camp

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Media captionPope Francis walked alone through the Arbeit Macht Frei gates, into the former Auschwitz death camp

The Pope has offered a private prayer at the former Auschwitz death camp.

He walked alone and in silence around the concentration and extermination camp in what was Nazi-occupied Poland where 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed.

Pope Francis also met elderly survivors of the camp, kissing them on the cheeks and speaking to them softly.

He is on his third day of a visit marking 1,050 years since Poland's adoption of Christianity.

Francis has become the third Pope to walk through the main gate of Auschwitz, under its infamous inscription "Arbeit Macht Frei" - work sets you free.

But unlike his German and Polish predecessors, he is not speaking about the horrors that occurred there, says the BBC's Adam Easton in Warsaw.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Pope greeted survivors of the camp and blessed them
Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Pope spent much of his visit to the camp in solitary prayer and contemplation

Francis passed under the gates alone, wearing white robes and skullcap. After meeting the survivors, he placed a candle at the Death Wall, where prisoners were executed by the Nazis, before continuing on his own.

The Pope stopped to pray at the prison cell of Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Catholic friar who sacrificed his life to save that of another man. The Church made him a saint in 1982.

Pope Francis knelt for many minutes in the underground cell, illuminated only by the light from a tiny window, the Associated Press news agency reports.

The Argentine Pope is on a five-day trip to Poland.

During a World Youth Day rally in the southern city of Krakow on Thursday, he urged compassion for migrants.

He told hundreds of thousands of people that "a merciful heart opens up to welcome refugees and migrants" - a statement that puts him at odds with Poland's anti-immigrant right-wing government.

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