Simon Wiesenthal Delegation Meets With Pope Benedict XVI and Urges the Pontiff to Lead "Coalition of Good"
A forty-member delegation from the Simon Wiesenthal Center met with Pope Benedict XVI in a private audience at the Vatican on November 14, 2005 where they urged the Pope to lead a "Coalition of Good" to combat Iranian threats, suicide bombers and international terrorism.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is an international Jewish human rights organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust by fostering tolerance and understanding through community involvement, educational outreach and social action. The Center confronts important contemporary issues including racism, antisemitism, terrorism and genocide and is accredited as an NGO both at the United Nations and UNESCO. With a membership of over 400,000 families, the Center is headquartered in Los Angeles and maintains offices in New York, Toronto, Miami, Jerusalem, Paris and Buenos Aires.
Established in 1977, the Center closely interacts on an ongoing basis with a variety of public and private agencies, meeting with elected officials, the U.S. and foreign governments, diplomats and heads of state. Other issues that the Center deals with include: the prosecution of Nazi war criminals; Holocaust and tolerance education; Middle East Affairs; and extremist groups, neo-Nazism, and hate on the Internet. The Center is headed by Rabbi Marvin Hier, its Dean and Founder. Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the Associate Dean and Rabbi Meyer May is the Executive Director.
In his remarks, Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, pictured left, said, "In our time, the greatest threat to mankind comes not from secularists and atheists, but from religious fanatics and zealots. Today, those who help recruit and inspire terrorists to murder innocent civilians by promising them a place in heaven, are not ungodly political leaders, but fundamentalist Imans and Mullahs who claim obedience to their Creator."
Hier added, "The President of Iran, a religious man who prays five times a day has re-enunciated the words of Adolf Hitler, and openly called for the destruction of the State of Israel in violation of the United Nations Charter; a threat that has drawn rebuke from the Vatican, but not yet from the United Nations General Assembly."
Following the meeting, Rabbi Hier said, "It was clear from what the Pope said, both publicly and privately, that he considers a coalition of the moderates crucial to the future well being of mankind."
Pope Benedict XVI took the opportunity to personally speak with each one of the 40- member delegation, which included Holocaust survivors. Murray Huberfeld, a member of the delegation from New York, told the Pontiff that his visit to the Vatican was particularly meaningful because his mother was hidden and spared extermination by a righteous Christian family during the Holocaust.
Rabbi Hier and Wiesenthal Center Board of Trustees Chairman Larry Mizel, pictured right, invited the Pope to attend the dedication ceremony for the Center for Human Dignity which is currently under construction in Jerusalem.
Herein is the transcript of the Remarks made by Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center at a private audience at the Vatican with Pope Benedict XVI:
"Your Holiness, we appreciate very much your kind invitation to dialogue and exchange views, particularly in these critical times in a world desperate for moral clarity and civility. It is very appropriate that the Wiesenthal Center’s third visit to the Vatican coincides with the 40th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the historic Declaration of the Second Vatican Council which condemned ‘antisemitism directed against the Jews at whatever time and by whomsoever.’ It is that Declaration that set the stage for meetings such as ours. Prior to that historic step, Jews were often held in contempt and derided as an accursed people. Millions suffered through the ages because there were none to defend them.
Only in our lifetime, did a handful of great leaders, led by Pope John XXIII, muster the courage to speak out against these flagrant violations of G-d’s law; none with greater conviction and determination then Pope John Paul II, whose message of friendship and inclusion of the Jewish people touched the hearts of millions around the world. We are grateful, Your Holiness, of your affirmation of that friendship as you declared during your visit to the synagogue in Cologne when you said, ‘I wish to re-affirm that I intend to continue on the path to improve relations and friendship with the Jewish people, following the decisive lead given by Pope John Paul II.’
A few weeks ago, humanity lost another great man of conviction, Simon Wiesenthal, often referred to as the ‘Conscience of the Holocaust’ - who lost 89 members of his family and emerged from the inferno of the death camps, not to seek vengeance, but in search of justice on behalf of those who could no longer speak for themselves. He lived his message that, ‘freedom is not a gift from heaven, it is something we must fight for each and every day,’ that if we do not speak out against the murderers of today, then we will force our children and grandchildren to contend with the murderers of tomorrow. It is that message that inspires us to speak out when Christians are forsaken in North Korean Gulags, when Muslims suffer in Darfur, when innocent Hindus, Buddhists and Jews are murdered in suicide attacks. Tragically Mr. Wiesenthal’s message still resonates today. A mere sixty years after Auschwitz, antisemitism has again found a fertile home in Europe, threatening the stability of Jews and Jewish institutions.
Today, the greatest threat to mankind comes not from secularists and atheists, but from religious fanatics and zealots. Today those who help recruit and inspire terrorists to murder innocent civilians by promising them a place in heaven are not ungodly political leaders, but fundamentalist Imans and Mullahs who claim obedience to their Creator. The President of Iran, a religious man who prays five times a day has re-enunciated the words of Adolf Hitler, and openly called for the obliteration of the State of Israel in violation of the United Nations Charter; a threat that has drawn rebuke from the Vatican but not yet from the United Nations General Assembly. Recent history has taught us the brutal consequences of a world silent in the face of evil. Allowing such a regime to acquire nuclear weapons would be like entrusting an addict to stand guard over his drugs.
The future of civilization depends on our ability to reach out and find that coalition of the good; those who still believe that nothing enduring was ever created by hate, no future made brighter by tyranny, no faith strengthened by fanaticism. We must do everything in our power to unite those tenets of the righteous and the just to do our share of Tikun Olam (repair the world), so that we can restore the balance and return to our Creator, the magnificent world he intended."
Rabbi Hier concluded by informing the Pope about the Wiesenthal Center’s new Center for Human Dignity that will soon begin construction in the heart of Jerusalem. The Center of Human Dignity, Hier said, will be ‘an institution that will promote mutual respect and social responsibility between Jews and their non-Jewish neighbors throughout the region.’Link to Simon Wiesenthal Center Website