At an unprecedented meeting in Porto, Portugal, last week, the city’s Catholic and Jewish communities presented to the world a project to combat anti-Semitism and foster good mutual relations.
The project encompasses cooperation towards charities, the promotion of their museums and four films (on relations between Catholics and Jews in the city) whose revenues in Portugal will revert to institutions that support the elderly, children and the sick.
D. Manuel Linda, Bishop of Porto, said: “This project is a break with the past of misunderstandings and the certainty of a future made hand in hand. It is unique in the world, as Porto is unique. Whatever depends on our contribution, here in Porto, there will be no anti-Semitism, just as the Jewish Community has no anti-Catholic religious feelings.”
Gabriela Cantergi, member of the Jewish Community Council in charge of interreligious relations, explained that, “Social and cultural dialogue are necessary to achieve full friendship between the Roman Catholic Church and Jewish communities, particularly in societies where negative stereotypes they are entrenched, ignoring, for example, the fact that many Jews experience economic hardships.”
This global project has received financial and practical support from Jewish philanthropists and organizations such as B’nai B’rith International, the Anti-Defamation League and the Vatican.
Pope Francis wrote to the Jewish community of Porto saying that he, “Prays for the members of the community that they may always work together with the Church in a spirit of fraternity for the greater good of all men and wishes of great happiness to the community and all who belong to and guide it.”
In particular, the Pope highlighted one of four films produced by the Jewish community – “The Nun’s Kaddish” – a short film about a true story of interfaith kindness that took place in Porto in 1982 when two Catholic nuns observe a Jewish ritual, raising the spirituality of the two religions to a higher sense of universal brotherhood.
The Jewish Community of Porto, chaired by Dias Ben Zion, is made up of over 400 members from over 30 countries. It has the largest synagogue in the Iberian Peninsula and a Jewish Museum which was inaugurated in June by the International President of B’nai B’rith. In his speech, Charles Kaufman said: “This Jewish Museum will punctuate the awakening of Jewish life in Portugal and should serve as a beacon of light for the rest of Europe, a land now obscured by resurgent anti-Semitism.”
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Porto, whose current Bishop is D. Manuel Linda, is the most populous in Portugal, with about 2 million people. It is based in the Episcopal Palace, the oldest and most distinguished Palace of Porto, which by its elevated position dominates the landscape of the historic city centre. The Episcopal Palace Museum, located in rooms of the Palace, is now open for visits to the general public and received a delegation from the local Jewish community last week.
(Source: Jewish Community of Oporto-Portugal)
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