Francis entered the camp on foot, walking slowly beneath the gate at Auschwitz displaying the words "Arbeit Macht Frei" -- a German phrase meaning, roughly, "Work Sets You Free."
The Vatican said Francis wanted to mourn the victims in quiet prayer and meditation, and for roughly 15 minutes he prayed silently before meeting with several survivors of the camp, greeting them one by one, shaking their hands and kissing the elderly survivors on the cheeks. He then carried a large white candle and placed it at the Death Wall, where prisoners were executed.
Francis left a message, written in his native Spanish, at the Auschwitz Memorial site asking for mercy for the victims, which was then tweeted out by the camp's verified twitter account.
In English, the Pope's message reads:
Lord, have mercy on your people!
Lord, forgiveness for so much cruelty!
Francis is the third consecutive Pontiff to make the pilgrimage to the historic site where Adolf Hitler's forces killed more than 1 million people in gas chambers, most of them Jews.
However, Francis is the first pope to visit the camp who has no personal ties to the site.
John Paul II hailed from Poland, which was under German control, while Benedict XVI was German.
The Associate Press contributed to this report