Unique memorial in the world brings together Christians and Jews in Argentina

It is the Mural commemorating the victims of the Shoah installed within the Metropolitan Cathedral. On the fifth anniversary of its inauguration and in coincidence with the Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Those who visit the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral are going to find within Argentina´s main Catholic temple a piece of art which summarizes the spirit of reconciliation encouraging most of the heirs of the Jewish – Christian culture.

On the fifth anniversary of its inauguration which coincides with the Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Commemorative Mural to the Holocaust victims and of those murdered in the terrorist attacks to the Israel Embassy and the AMIA, constitutes an example of coexistence in Argentina, a country in need of concrete actions of understanding and respect for differences.

The Mural, an unprecedented artistic monument in the world in the Jewish-Christian relations, was inaugurated by Cardinal Antonio Quarracino on April 14, 1997 and it is preserved due to the determination of the current Primate, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. Its dimensions are 1,80 mts. long by 1,20 mts. wide. It is composed of two glass panels between which are placed sheets of books of prayers rescued from the ruins of the Treblinka and Auschwitz concentration camps as well as the Warsaw ghetto. It was precisely at the Warsaw ghetto where on April 19, 1943 40,000 confined Jews staged the first urban uprising in occupied Europe.

The tree of life, a Menorah (candelabrum), the Tables of the Law and the Star of David can be appreciated engraved in the four corners of the silver-wrought frame. The project, an idea of the founder of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, Baruch Tenembaum, was designed by the architect Norberto Silva and carried out by goldsmith Carlos Pallarols.

The visitor will probably be amazed when appreciating the Hebrew alphabet letters in a Christian temple. Among the texts in the sacred language those which illustrate a Hagadah of Pesach (ritual prayer book of the Jewish Easter), rescued from a concentration camp in the Toulouse area (France) in 1942, can be appreciated. Those are the same characters which illustrate the only stamp with Hebrew letters ever isued in Argentina, launched in 1998 by the Correo Argentino postal service and of which there is still a remaining at the main offices of the postal authority.

As La Nación daily newspaper stressed in its editorial of March 28, 2002

”… what joins Judaism with Christianity is much stronger than what theologically separates or differentiates them. Beyond the contents that enrich their respective religious identities, Jews and Christians share cultural conceptions and humanitarian dreams in which it is easy to recognize a similar way of conceiving the dignity of a person and even of searching for the mystery of God.”

First placed in the chapel Saint Theresa of Jesus it was later moved to the chapel of the Virgin of Luján by Quarracino´s posthumous request. On December 26, 1997 -Quarracino passed away on February 28, 1998- he wrote to Baruch Tenembaum: ”It will be soon a year since the unveiling of this worthy monument inside the Cathedral, to which I have invited all Jews to cover their heads if they wish so. The definite place of the Mural will be close to the resting place that I am longing for inside the Cathedral, to keep pleading for brotherhood as I have done all my life.”

In its short history the Mural was visited by important worldwide personalities such as the Cardinals John O’Connor and Angelo Sodano, Archbishop of New York and Secretary of the Holy See, respectively; the Nobel Peace Prize, Lech Walesa and the French intellectual Guy Sorman, among others. Students and tourists from all around the globe are among the three thousand people who visit Argentina’s main Catholic temple every day.

It is worth mentioning that the German Evangelical Church, in a decision of historical relevance, has resolved to place in the Church of Our Father in the German capital (Vaterunser-Kirche) a replica of the Mural. Thus, Berlin will be the second metropolis in the world to house a memorial of the people murdered in the Shoah within a Christian temple, privilege until now only kept by the city of Buenos Aires.

Translation: IRWF