June 2004

Signifficant international interreligious homage to Aristides de Sousa Mendes

Due to the 50 anniversary of the Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes’ death, who saved thousands of people, mostly Jews, persecuted by Nazism, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation has launched a call to religious leaders of all confessions to celebrate commemorative services in memory of Consul Sousa Mendes in their own congregations. The IRWF initiative has found a wide support in the world, and many messages of adhesion from priests, rabbies and pastors have been received. The religious services took place on June 17 in churches and synagogues of more than 30 countries. Tens of religious, cultural and educational activities took place in the five continents. Among many other countries that joined the remembrance were France, the United States, the Vatican, China and Israel. In New York took place a mass dedicated to Sousa Mendes. The religious ceremony was held in the church of Our Lady of Fatima, in Yonkers and was in charge of Monsignor Celestino Migliore, Vatican Representative to the UN. Among the many people present that fully occupied the temple were Goncalo de Santa Clara Gomes, Portugal Ambassador to the UN, Alexandre Manuel Galvao Mexia de Almeida Fernandes, General Consul of Portugal to New York, Sheila Abranches and Aristides Mendes, Sousa Mendes’ relatives and tens of representatives of the Portuguese community in New York, in traditional clothing. At the end of the service took place a reception in which Mrs. Abigail Tenembaum, vice-president of the Wallenberg Foundation, presented the Sousa Mendes award to John Crisostomo, distinguished Portuguese activist dedicated to promote the life and dee! ds of the Portuguese savior. In Rome, on the other hand, a mass was celebrated in the Basilica of Saint Mary in Trastevere. The ceremony was in charge of Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Peace and Justice Commission of the Vatican. In the course of the prayers, Cardinal Martino included an invocation for the peaceful coexistence among people and communities of different beliefs, races and religions, as well as a word against anti-Semitism and racial discrimination. Before the end of the ceremony, the special envoy of the IRWF, Rabbi Ablin, was invited by the high Vatican prelate to address the audience. During his message, Ablin informed of the decision of granting the Sousa Mendes award to Cardinal Martino, who expressed his satisfaction by standing up due to people’s applause. In Bordeaux, the city in which Sousa Mendes carried out his rescue deed, the ”Sousa Mendes 50 anniversary Medal” was presented to Father Bernard Jacques Riviere, due to his long and successful dedication to promote the deed of the former Portuguese consul. The Wallenberg Foundation received thousands of adhesions to the unprecedented initiative. It is worth mentioning those belonging to the Prime Minister of Portugal, H.E. Jose Manuel Durao Barroso; the US congressman, Toma Lantos; Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Elie Wiesel; Mayor of Yonkers, Phil Amicone and Raoul Wallenberg’s niece, Louis von Dardel, among other international personalities.

Sir Sigmund Sternberg Award

The Department of Compared Religions of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Interreligious Coordination Council of Israel sponsored the presentation of the Sir Sigmund Sternberg Award for interreligious dialogue. In the ceremony that took place on June 10, the researcher Yosi Klein Ha-Lei, from the Shalem Institute, spoke about the subject ”Judaism, Christianity and Islam”.

Papal condemnation to antisemitism

Last May 10, a solemn service was held in the central synagogue of Rome due to the 100 anniversary of that house of prayers. During the occasion, the General Vicar of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, read a message belonging to Pope John Paul II, in which it is stated that the Catholic Church rejects anti-Semitism in all its expressions clearly and definitely. The message points out that ”it is not enough to condemn the hostility against the Jewish People but it is also necessary to strengthen friendship, esteem and fraternal relation”.

Chief Rabbi of Israel is received by the King of Spain

The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, was received by King John Charles I of Spain, due to his recent visit to the Iberian Peninsula. Later the Jewish Religious Dignitary had a fraternal meeting with the Primate of the Spanish Church, Monsignor Antonio Canizares.

Symposium at the Tantur Institute

The Tantur Institute for Theological Studies organized between May 23 and 26 an international symposium about the subject ”forgiveness and its dimensions”. The subject was analyzed from the theological perspectives of Protestantism, Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Judaism. The participants of the symposium were: Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontific Council to promote Christian unity; Dr. Sarah Coakley from Harvard Divinity School; Dr. Katharyn Johnson from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary; Dr. L. Gregory Jones from Duke University School; Dr. Miroslav Volf from Yale Divinity School and Dr. Gustavo Gutierrez from the University of Notre Dame.

Preparatory symposium for Barcelona

In preparation to the call of Parliament of Religions of the World in the month of July in Barcelona, a preparatory symposium took place in Jerusalem. The event was organized by the Council for the Parliament of Religions of the World in collaboration with the Association for Interreligious Encounter. The Agenda of the meeting was about the different issues to be discussed in Barcelona, with special attention to two aspects: the growing religious violence and the right to have access to clean water. The symposium counted with the participation of the Main Rabbi of Haifa, Shear Yashuv Cohen, the Vatican Nuncio in Israel Pietro Sambi, the Secretary General of the Sufi Council in Holy Land Sheik Abd-E-Sallam Manasra, representative of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Lutheran Bishop and distinguished community leaders.

On June 29, 2004 the site www.msn.com has published in Israel the following information related to the Vatican rescue actions of Jewish refugees during the Second World War.

”The Church states: we have saved too many Jews”

The note entitled ”The Church states: we have saved too many Jews” expresses: ”The Church helped rescue too many Jews during the Second World War”. That is expressed in a letter written by a Bishop in the year 1943, which was published yesterday by the Vatican (6/28/2004). The Bishop complains in his letter about the preferred treatment to the Jewish race. ”The missive was published, in the context of the war fought by the Catholic Church against the accusations that it did not act to stop Nazism and the Jews extermination machine, after the Pope ordered to reveal the sections of the Vatican file that had been kept in secret until now”. ”The letter that has been published by the Vatican Nuncio in Rumania, Andrea Casullo, on July 21, 1943 and was addressed to Cardinal Luiggi Mangilione, at that moment responsible for the Ministry of Foreign Relations in the Vatican. Casullo pointed out in his letter, that diverse circles expressed their dislike for the preferred treatment that the Vatican gives to the Jewish Race, among them a Catholic Bishop named Pacce.” ”The latter expressed, as it is read in the letter, that his German parishioners accuse the Church to treat Jews, enemies of the German People, in a preferred manner. Casullo addressed the Vatican to consult the way in which he should act, though it is not known whether he received an answer or not”. ”Thousands of additional documents have been published by the Vatican with the intention of proving the action of the Church to help families so they could find relatives after the war”.