Feb 12, 2009
Shalom, Your Holiness, Peace be unto you,
On the eve of Passover, during your historic visit to the United States, it was my privilege to welcome Your Holiness to Park East Synagogue in New York. The first papal visit to an American synagogue was another expression of your outreach to the Jewish community. Today, the Presidents Conference of Major American Jewish Organizations delegation enjoys your hospitality at a trying moment in Catholic-Jewish relations. We thank you for this encounter that will help bring healing and mutual understanding.
As a Holocaust survivor, these have been painful and difficult days when confronted with Holocaust-denial by no less than a bishop of Society of St. Pius X. 2009 marks the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, September 1, 1939. We both experienced the ravages of that war, death, suffering and devastation. The Shoah claimed the lives of six million Jewish men, women, and children including my own family in Auschwitz and Terezin. Your Holiness, we and others who have seen man's inhumanity to man, how can we but revolt at Holocaust-denial? Victims of the Holocaust have not given us the right to forgive the perpetrators nor the Holocaust deniers. Thank you for understanding our pain and anguish and your firm statement expressing "unquestioned solidarity" with the Jewish people and condemning Holocaust denial
In our autumn years, we must transmit "never again" through Holocaust education to future generations. Holocaust education can be a call to conscience and awaken us from our slumber of indifference to the threat of genocide in our own day.
Your Holiness, through the guidelines of Nostra Aetate, we have been able to heal the wounds of the past and effect reconciliation between the Church and the Jewish people. Your personal commitment and that of Pope John Paul II, of blessed memory, to "embrace the older brother" has given us further encouragement to build even closer ties between Catholics and Jews all over the world. Your Holiness, we thank you for repeatedly standing with us as we face the new scourge of Anti-Semitism, the desecration and burning of synagogues.
As Jews traveling in the desert carried not only the second tablets in the Ark but also the first broken tablets, we too carry with us memories of centuries of persecution, oppression and denigration, but we are not paralyzed by the past. We continue with faith in the Shomer Yisrael, Guardian of Israel, who shields and protects us at all times (Psalm 121). We have rebuilt our lives, and were privileged to see the reemergence of the State of Israel, the fulfillment of Ezekiel's prophecy, "And I will put My spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I will place you in your own land; and ye shall know that I the LORD have spoken, and performed it, saith the LORD (Ezekiel 37:14)." The Promised Land awaits Your arrival.
Our relationship, based upon the solid foundation of Vatican II, can overcome periodic setbacks. We can emerge even stronger to cooperate with one another and to work together in confronting the enormous challenges facing our civilization. May God give you strength and long life to be the bridge-builder in pursuit of peace, inter-religious dialogue and tolerance. Oseh Shalom Bimromav Hu Yaaseh Shalom Aleinu: May He who made peace in Heaven, help us establish peace on Earth.