A delegation of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF), led by its founder Baruch Tenembaum, greeted Pope Benedict XVI on September 27th 2006, at the Vatican. On the occasion the Pontiff was presented with the educational program ” Father Alfonso Durán”.
Father Durán, with his numerous tasks as priest, writer, historian, teacher and poet, fostered courageous actions to remove anti-Semitism and ratial prejudices. His work -he was based in Santa Fe province, Argentina- was sheped by the spirit of justice and Christian charity as well as by the values of solidarity and civic courage that the Wallenberg Foundation promotes. In 2006 the Government of Santa Fe created a special Homage Committee in honor of Father Alfonso Duran. The committee is presided by Governor Jorge Obeid and its members are Father Edgar Stoffel of the Archbishopric of Santa Fe, Walter Galvez representing the Christian Evangelic Church, Ana Cecchini de Dallo for the Provincial Cultural Department and Doctor Marcelo Vorobiof, amongst others.
The delegation of the Wallenberg Foundation, with the participation of Abel Bomrad, Ricardo Faerman and Enrique Zanin, held other work meetings with Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for promoting Christian Unity; Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and Interreligious Dialogue; Great Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni; Imam of the Mosque of Rome, Sami Salem; Franca Eckert Coen, responsible for the interreligious dialogue of the City of Rome, and with other central figures of the Italian culture and politics.
A diploma, presented to the Pope by Tenembaum, had the following inscription:
”Testimony of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation as a tribute to the memory of Father Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, savior of thousands of Jews during the Second World War; Sister Sara Salkahazi, murdered for having protected the lives of her Jewish fellowmen persecuted by the Nazis; Sister Leonella Sgorbatti, killed in Somalia; Father Alfonso Durán, who made his voice heard against the hideous crimes of the Nazis, whilst the rest of the world kept silent; and the numerous Catholics which stood out by behaving in accordance with the following precept: ”You shall love your neighbor as yourself”.”
This inscription, engraved in Hebrew letters is the headline of the piece made out of sheepskins from the Argentinian Patagonia.
Imam Sami Salem stressed that ”in the day of Ramadan I am immensely happy to receive the Wallenberg Foundation, whose educational mission I am well acquainted with and appreciate it , promoting peace and understanding between countries, without differences of any kind.”
Ricardo Faerman underlined that ”the IRWF is not a political organization. Its mission is to build bridges between generations, countries, religions and cultures.”
”Argentina is an example of coexistence because it is a country where all its membres of different religions live in harmony from the times of the birth of the nation”, stated Abel Bomrad.
At the same time, Enrique Zanin underlined the educational role carried out by the Catholic News Agency Zenit, whose editor, Jesús Colina, was distinguished by the Wallenberg Foundation on September 28th at the Argentine Embassy in the Holy See.
Translation: María Pensavalle