Vatican City – Friday, June 13th, 2008 (Zenit.org). The Internationl Raol Wallenberg Foundation recognizes John XXIII for his advancement of religious dialogues. Also honored was the intelectual, Marco Roncalli.
Roncalli is one of the leading authorities on John XXIII. His research, published in various books and articles, has helped to highlight aspects of the life of this Pope. One particular event emphasized in Roncalli’s work took place during the WWII era. This was before John XIII had become Bishop of Rome, where he was able to save so many persecuted Jews.
Roncalli, born in Bergamo (Northern Italy), whose grandfather was actually the younger brother of the Pope of that time (Angelo G. Roncalli), has been researching John XXIII over the past 25 years.
On June 12th, the International Roaul Wallenberg Foundation awarded him the Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli medal. He received the award in the Centro Rusia Ecumenica, just feet from the Vatican.
Representatives from the Diplomatic Corps participated in the ceremony. Among them was the British ambassador for the ”Holy See”, Francis Martin-Xavier Campbell and the current Argentine representative for the Vatican, (who is still waiting the appointment of an ambassador), Hugo Javier Gobbi.
Gary L. Krupp, one of the religious representatives, is the founder of the ”Pave the Way Foundation”, an institution that promotes interreligious dialogue
The founder of the IRWF, Baruj Tenembaum, shared a word with the participants of the ceremony. In his message he reminded them of how monseñor Roncalli, while representative for the Pope, saved the lives of Jews in Bulgaria and Turkey.
As apostolic delegate for the Pope,` in Istambul, in 1944, he ”organizad a rescue network for Jews and others persecuted under Naziism. Thanks to his actions, thousands who had been condemned to death were spared,” said Tenembaum.
Tenembaum went on to say that ”a new era of relations between the Catholic Church and followers of Judaism were opened with the Papacy of John XXIII, the ”Good Pope”. It was a new period of understanding and tolerance, after years of denigration, prejudice and religious persecution.”
”The doors for interreligious dialogue that were opened due to the efforts of John XXIII, continued to creak open during the papacy of Pope John Paul II, the Pope that would often refer to the Jewish people as, ”our older brothers”. John Paul also visited the Nazi concentration camps as a sign of respect for the Jewish victims. He even took the pilgrimage to the Holy Land, in the state of Israel”, Tenembaum said.
In the last few years, the Wallenberg Foundation has done a significant amount of research focused on bringing to light the humanitarian labor performed by monseñor Roncalli.
”This award could not have been given to a more deserving candidate than the distinguished intellectual, Marco Roncalli. He is a man of letters and of compassion. And we humbly recognize him for his efforts.
”Marco Roncalli fulfills a double labor, being faithful to the historical truth and also to ethics of journalism. He gave the public the best version possible of the truth and likewise documented the events of daily life with great precision and investigative zeal.”
The medal was given to Roncalli by Jesus Colina, Zenit news director.
During his acceptance speech, Roncalli recognized the Wallenberg Foundation’s contribution, ”For the work of historic reconstruction performed by Angelo G. Roncalli, through his actions and attitude, in favor of the Jews residing in Turkey and Bulgaria, who were subsequently persecuted by the Nazi regime.”
According to Roncalli, this work has been a source of encouragement. He has increased his efforts to expand the ”Righteous People Among the Nations” program. The Yad Vashem committee developed this initiative in order to recognize individuals that risked their lives in the act of helping persecuted Jews.
The writer thanked the IRWF for the extensive research put into documenting the life-long labor of the arch-bishop Roncalli. He expressed his gratitude on behalf of the Roncalli family and the villiage of Sotto il Monte (where the pope was born).
Translation: Brandon Pipkin