Everyone agrees he was a great friend of the Jewish people and saved many lives. So what’s the hold-up?
Having said so, analyzing the diplomats who did get the title of Righteous among the Nations, one can conclude that only some of them did act against expressed orders from their government and actually put their careers in jeopardy; for example, the Brazilian Luis Martins de Sousa Dantas or the Brazilian Aristides de Sousa Mendes.
Most of the other recognized diplomats, including Frank Foley, Carl Lutz or Raoul Wallenberg themselves did not contravene the policies of their own countries and nonetheless, they were declared Righteous.
To be sure, Angelo Roncalli was a singular case and therefore merits, in our view, the title of Righteous among the Nations.
Why Yad Vashem refuses to recognize him? We cannot give a precise answer. Some people believe that sensitive political considerations might lay behind this negative.
Regardless of these impediments, we believe that Pope John XXIII should receive a special title from the State of Israel, as the representative of the Jewish people. While sanctity is not an option in the Jewish religion, there must be other suitable options to pay tribute to such a hero. An official letter of gratitude or certificate from Israel or Yad Vashem to this noble prelate who did so much to stem the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews, such as "Distinguished Friend of the Jewish People" would constitute at least an appropriate gesture of gratitude.
Whether we shall be able to convince Yad Vashem or not, we pledge to continue in our relentless efforts to spread around his message of love and solidarity. We applaud the Israeli Knesset for holding tomorrow’s special session and we urge Israel, the Jewish world and all the people who cherish the values of the rescuers to keep their legacies alive.
Eduardo Eurnekian is the Chairman and Baruch Tenembaum is the Founder of the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.
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