An initiative whose sole aim is to make public acknowledgement of the deeds of former Pope John XXIII during World War II, was begun at the headquarters of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations
The prestigious International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation has formally asked Yad Vashem, the oldest and most widely known Holocaust Remembrance organization in Israel and the world, to recognize the now deceased Pontiff as a ”Righteous” individual. A ”Righteous Among the Nations” individual defines any non-Jewish person who helped rescue Jews during the Nazi genocide. The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation has undertaken this initiative because it wishes to broadcast the deeds of Archbishop Giuseppe Roncalli, as Pope John XXIII was known before the Papacy, during his functioning as Nuncio in Istanbul, Turkey during World War II. He was instrumental in assisting both Monsignor Angelo Rotta and Raoul Wallenberg in their life saving endeavors. Once instated in the Papacy, Pope John XXIII began his fight to achieve reconciliation and was a key factor in convoking the momentous Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s, which drastically changed the Church’s relation to other world religions. For this reason he is considered by many to be the ”Good Pope”.
Various groups and individuals who share these goals attended the event. Prominent American-Jewish leader, Rabbi David Algaze lauded the IRWF and its initiator, Baruch Tenembaum. Rabbi Simón Moguilevsky, leader of the Argentine Jewish Community and well known in all corners of Latin America was present eulogizing the life of Pope John XXIII. He pointed out the Mural erected at the Central Cathedral of Buenos Aires, rendering homage to the victims of the Holocaust. This momentous and unprecedented expression of solidarity and understanding among Catholics and Jews was partially the dream child of the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Antonio Quarracino, a staunch believer in Pope John’s XXIII spirit of brotherhood and unity among all peoples.
Representing the Vatican was the Chief of the Papal Delegation to the U.N., Archbishop Renato Martino while Ambassador Samuel Sisso was there in the name of the Israeli government to accept the formal letter of Righteous acknowledgment directed to Yad Vashem. Mr. Tenembaum and Mr. Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, offered an artistic piece to another Papal representative, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. This sculpture will be taken by Cardinal Sodano and will be presented to the Vatican in honor of the Swedish diplomat (Raoul Wallenberg) and Pope John XXIII. Cardinal Sodano ended the get together by stating that these types of activities ”stimulate the spirit”. He concluded by expressing his sincere expectation that these initiatives, and hopefully future ones, will have the ultimate result of bringing traditionally divided people closer together in harmony and dialogue.