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Pope Francis and head of Israel’s Holocaust memorial meet at Vatican


Amos Ben Gershom GPO | Pool | NurPhoto | AFP

John Burger - published on 06/11/22

The chairman of Yad Vashem thanked the Holy Father for opening up the Vatican archives of the period covering the Holocaust.

In a historic meeting at the Vatican, the chairman of Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem thanked Pope Francis for opening the Holy See’s World War II-era archives.

Dani Dayan, the chairman, became the first Yad Vashem head to meet with a pope in private audience at the Vatican, when he accompanied Israel’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Rafi Schutz, to see Francis on Thursday. The discussion focused primarily on ongoing collaborative efforts by Yad Vashem and the Church on “Holocaust remembrance, education and documentation, and to discuss efforts to fight anti-Semitism and racism worldwide,” Yad Vashem said in a statement.

The Vatican did not report Francis’ comments during the meeting, but Dayan, who became the head of Yad Vashem last year after serving as consul general of the State of Israel in New York, said that when he thanked the pope for having opened the Vatican archives of the period covering the Holocaust, the pontiff “said very clearly that to open the archives is to make justice.”

The pope, he said, reiterated “that the Church not only is not afraid of history, the Church loves history,” according to Vatican News.

In March 2020, the Vatican Apostolic Archives, alongside several other archives of the Holy See on the pontificate of Pius XII (1939-1958) were opened to consultation by scholars.

Francis said at the meeting that he is well aware that, as in other organizations, in the Church “there were people who did the right thing, and those who did not.”

“During our meeting today, along with various issues I raised, I proposed to the pope all of Yad Vashem’s expertise and influence, our abilities, materials and scholarship in order to address these issues related to the Holocaust and the Church in particular, and on the worldwide stage in general,” Dayan said.

Yad Vashem was founded in 1953 as Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. The memorial is also home to a research center dedicated to the study of the Holocaust and genocide in general, and an educational center established to develop ways of teaching the Holocaust. The name “Yad Vashem” comes from a verse in the Book of Isaiah (56:5): “[To] them will I give in my house and within my walls a [memorial] and a [name], better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting [name], that shall not be cut off [from memory].”

The Yad Vashem leader said that Francis was very clear in condemning the scourge of anti-Semitism, and he upheld the importance to continue to fight and defeat it.

Scholars from Yad Vashem have been gathering information from Vatican archives. According to the Holocaust memorial, they aim to bring it back for further study “and hopefully shed light on the experiences and fate of many Holocaust victims.” 

The last three popes have visited Yad Vashem, including Francis in 2014. 

Pope Francis
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