June 24, 2005

Foundation Recalls John XXIII’s Assistance to Jews


42 Years After His Death

NEW YORK, JUNE 24, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Blessed John XXIII will pass into history as the one who gave impetus to Catholic-Jewish dialogue, said the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.

In a statement to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of the death of Angelo Roncalli, Pope John XXIII, the foundation said that it was this Pope who initiated the Second Vatican Council, ”the event which gave birth to the ‘Nostra Aetate’ declaration, a document that highlighted the Jewish roots of Christianity, in an attempt to repair centuries of hostilities between the two religions.”

The Raoul Wallenberg International Foundation is dedicated to remembering those who risked their lives to save persecuted people during the Second World War.

Saved lives

The foundation recalled that as apostolic nuncio to France, Archbishop Roncalli used ”diplomatic couriers to obtain baptismal certificates and blank visas for the Jewish people in Hungary.”

These documents, said the foundation, were used ”to save the lives of tens of thousands of Jews persecuted by the Nazi regime.”

Archbishop Roncalli also met with the chief rabbi of Jerusalem, Issac Herzog, ”and interceded at the request of the rabbi in favor of the Jews of Romania.”

The archbishop also assisted Haim Barlas, delegate of the Jewish Agency in Istanbul, to get Jewish refugees into Palestine, and ”interceded before King Boris of Bulgaria to prevent the deportation of the Jewish population,” said the statement.

”Symbol of love”

According to the foundation, ”the humanitarian action of Nuncio Roncalli to save the lives of thousands of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, combined with his determined attitude of religious closeness to — and dialogue with — Judaism, in his capacity as Pope John XXIII, make his figure an undying symbol of love of neighbor and of interreligious dialogue.”

In 2000, the foundation created the Angelo Roncalli International Committee, to pay tribute to the humanitarian action of Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, then apostolic nuncio to France, to save Jewish refugees persecuted by the Nazi regime during World War II.

The Angelo Roncalli International Committee is made up of renowned figures, such as Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; professor André Chouraqui, a translator of the Old and New Testaments and the Koran into French; and Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.