June 21, 2020

The IRWF pays tribute to Portuguese diplomat – Aristides de Sousa Mendes

  A special meeting of the Board of the IRWF took place on June 17th, 2020, coinciding with the Day of Conscience.

It is believed that on June 17th, 1940, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, decided to ignore the directives of the Portuguese government, outlined in the infamous Circular 40, and following his own humanitarian conscience he made-up his mind to offer life-saving transit visas to thousands of Jews who were facing the cruelest of destinies in the hands of the Nazis. That is how Sousa Mendes saved the lives of some 10,000 souls.

The Day of Conscience was born out of the mind of our dear friend and member of our Foundation, Mr. Joao Cristosomo, who worked nights and days to make this dream come true, calling upon churches, synagogues and mosques to remember this day.

In a general audience held on last June 17th by Pope Francis, himself a honorary member of the IRWF, the Pontiff praised Aristides de Sousa Mendes, saying that “Today is the ‘Day of Conscience’, inspired by the witness of the Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who around 80 years ago declared to follow the voice of his conscience and saved the lives of thousands of Jews and other persecuted people”. The Pope went on and added: “May freedom of conscience be respected always and everywhere, and may every Christian give the example of the consistency of an upright conscience enlightened by the Word of God”.

In a joint statement made by Mr. Eduardo Eurnekian and Mr. Baruch Tenembaum, Chairman and Founder of the IRWF respectively, they called upon all the religious communities around the world to pray for the memory of this great Portuguese hero who acted according to his moral principles, regardless of the hefty price he had to pay.

The IRWF has paid tribute to Sousa Mendes on various occasions, including the commission of a commemorative stamp bearing his semblance, which was issued by the Israeli Postal Authority.
Aristides de Sousa Mendes – 1940

Postal Issue dedicated to Sousa Mendes