July 2005

Sousa Mendes: 120th. birth anniversary:

On July 19th., the Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes was remembered on occasion of his 120th birth anniversary. He saved the life of thousands of refugees from the Nazi persecution, most of them Jews.

The event was organized by the IRWF and took place at the Museum of the Jewish Heritage in New York. Among the attendees was Sousa Mendes’ granddaughter, Mrs Fleischhaker Abranches, in representation of his family.

An active catholic and father of fourteen children, Sousa Mendes is a hero of humanity. As Portuguese consul in Bordeaux (France), from late 1939 to June 1940, he issued countless visas which allowed thousands of people, both Jews and not, to escape from the horror of World War II. Thanks to Sousa Mendes’ courage, more than 30,000 thousand people survived the Holocaust.

Sousa Mendes’ humanity came at a high price for him. His defiance of the Portuguese government, which had commanded him not to issue permits to either Jewish or anti-Nazi refugees, cost him his position. Sousa Mendes was dismissed from the PortugueseDiplomatic Service, and his name was banished for decades in his own country. He had to spend the rest of his lifetime in abject poverty. Sousa Mendes died on April 3rd 1954. His good reputation had not been restored yet.

In 2004, on occasion of his 50th death anniversary, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation and the Angelo Roncalli International Committee organized a number of simultaneous religious services in churches and synagogues in more than 30 different countries.

Interreligious Seminar in Cyprus:

On July 3rd 2005, a delegation from the Interreligious Coordinating Council of Israel (ICCI) traveled to Cyprus for the study seminar ”Interreligious Reconciliation: Learning, Dialogue and Action”. The Israeli delegation, including rabbis, priests and Muslim kadis, met Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot religious leaders that are involved in a common effort to reach a pacific settlement in the divided island.

Pope could visit Israel:

Israeli ambassador at the Vatican, Mr Oded ben Hur, confirmed that Israeli Minister of Communications , Mrs Dalia Itzick, delivered a letter from Prime Minister Mr Ariel Sharon to Pope Benedict XVI inviting the Pontiff to visit to the Jewish State.

According to an Israeli radio station that interviewed the Minister of Communications, the Pontiff may have said during the meeting: ”I have a very busy schedule of visits to foreign countries, but Israel is a priority.”

Hebrew national poet inspires believers to a council of religions:

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF) has built the website: www.bialikencastellano.com with the aim to render (????) Jaim Najman Bialik’s poetry accessible to Spanish-speaking readers. The project was launched by Mr. Baruj Tenembaum – the founder of IRWF – and it is supported by the efficiency and dedication of Ms Belkis Rogovsky, the coordinator.

The Hebrew national poet’s work is obviously interesting for the Jewish people – both in Israel and the Diaspora – but it is also interesting for Christian sectors aiming to regain Jewish religion as part of their own line of faith.

Postgraduate degree in interreligious dialogue:

A postgraduate degree in interreligious, ecumenical and cultural dialogue will be launched next academic year. According to information provided by the Higher Institute of Religious Sciences, Barcelona, the programme includes studies of Abrahamanic religions (Judaism and Islam), Eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism), African and Afro-American religions, and new religions like New Age. It also includes studies of interreligious dialogue, ecumenism and cross-cultural faith, among other issues.

This postgraduate degree is one of the two specialisations offered by the Masters Degree in Religious Sciences – the other specialisation is Biblical Theology – and it is aimed at students with a degree.

”Legado”, an Argentinean documentary for interreligious dialogue to win award in Berlin:

The Argentinean documentary film ”Legado, yo nunca me fui de mi pueblo” (Legacy, I never left my village) will be awarded a prize in Berlin for its humanitarian message of intercultural and interfaith friendship. The film has been produced by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF) and its associated institutions Argentinean House in Jerusalem and the Angelo Roncalli International Committee. The IRWF requested filmmakers Vivian Imar and Marcelo Trotta to direct the film, also helping to find the descendants of Jewish ancestors of the Diaspora in different countries. The film focuses on a little known story about Argentinean life in the Pampas, where Jewish immigrants settled near the 20th century after fleeing from the persecutions in Europe.

The prize will be awarded from the Evangelic Church in Berlin, a Christian religious community. The jury emphasizes the achievements made by the IRWF, which sponsored the film with donations from descendants of the Diaspora. Because the prize is awarded by a Christian institution in Berlin, the award has a strong symbolic meaning, in that it reinforces the cause of Judeo-Christian dialogue and harmony in the place where the Nazis administered the genocide that mass murdered millions of Jewish people.

Interreligious women’s pilgrimage:

The Interreligious Meeting Association organized the first interreligious women’s peregrination on July 14th-15th. The pilgrimage aimed for the study of Druse religion. The event included visits to the Druse village El Carmel and the Prophet Jehtro’s tomb in Galilea.

”The cross and the synagogue”, a book for Christians and Jews:

The book was presented during an event held in the foreign press room in Rome. The author of the book, the Italian Vaticanist Giovanni Battista Brunori, shared the presentation talk with Bishop Rino Fisichella, President of Pontific University of Letran; Benedetto Carucci Viterbi, Rabbi of the Roman Jewish Community; Mauro Mazza, TG2 RAI director; David Meghnagi, Professor at Rome 3 University; and Lisa Palmieri, correspondent in Rome for the Jerusalem Post newspaper.

The book analyzes various themes of interest for Christians and Jews, notably the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the role of Pope Pio XII during the Nazi persecution of Jews, and the resurgence of anti-Semitism around Europe.

Mexican Primate in Holy Land:

The Mexican Primate, Cardinal Norberto Riviera Carrera, visited the State of Israel, Holy Land, in June together with other Mexican Bishops.