(February 22, 2023 / JNS) Catholic archbishops from around the world on Tuesday urged Catholics to actively fight the rise of antisemitism.
The clergymen issued their call during a virtual event celebrating the heroic actions of Monsignor Giuseppe Placido Nicolini (1877-1973) in helping to save hundreds of Jewish lives during the Holocaust, when he was the bishop of Assisi in Umbria, central Italy.
Nicolini established the underground Assisi Network, in which churches, monasteries and convents in the city sheltered Jews from the Germans and assisted some with transit to other places of relative safety.
Nicolini was recognized as a Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1977.
“Sadly, in our day, we are witnessing a troubling increase in hate-filled antisemitic language and acts of violence against Jews in the U.S. and elsewhere,” said Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago. “Christians cannot just be alarmed by antisemitism. We must look to the example of Bishop Nicolini and band together in a network of support and protection.
“We have come to recognize the deep harm that antisemitism causes and a better understanding of its roots. We must create the kind of network in Assisi that saved the lives of Jews, but also saved the humanity of those who saved them,” said Cupich.
The event, which was hosted by the Combat Antisemitism Movement, highlighted the history of Catholic-Jewish relations since the Holocaust and the importance of strengthening those bonds.
“May today’s event help us ‘Never Again’ to choose violence against our brothers and sisters in the human family,” said Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio (ambassador) to the United States. “‘Never Again’ to turn a blind eye to such violence being enacted in our midst.”
“Each one must be our brother’s keeper, and act accordingly,” said Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana, apostolic nuncio to Israel and Cyprus. “The Catholic Church condemns and combats antisemitism in all of its forms and is totally committed in fighting it as one of mankind’s oldest, most pernicious and most destructive forms of bigotry and hate.”
“Combatting antisemitism also means combating its causes and identifying them. These include social distress, uncertainty, fear and the scapegoat mechanism,” said Father Manuel Barrios, secretary general of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union. “We must acknowledge that we are all brothers and sisters, we belong to the same human family and are called together to take care of one another. This is the cure for many of the evils that are afflicting our world today.”
Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Combat Antisemitism Movement’s Advisory Board, said, “Today, we see more and more bridges between the Catholic Church and civil and religious Jewish leaders.
“Unfortunately, antisemitism is on the rise across the world and we are constantly looking for allies in this fight, trying to mobilize people across the world, because it is not just a problem for the Jewish people but also for anyone who wants to live in a world of justice and freedom,” said Sharansky.
The participants in the event also included Assisi Mayor Stefania Proietti, Israel Ambassador to the Vatican Raphael Schutz, Chairman of the European March of the Living Benjamin Albalas, B’nai B’rith International CEO Dan Mariaschin and Anna Cividalli, a descendant of a member of the Jewish community in Italy who was saved during the Holocaust.
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