Discovering Common Ground in Auschwitz

An Israeli delegation of Catholics and Jews this week went to Auschwitz-Birkenau to attend “The Suffering of the Innocents,” a special concert dedicated to the memory of the millions of lives lost during the Holocaust. Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernandez, founders of the Neocatechumenal Way, were the organizers of the event, which was attended by over 10,000 people from around the world including cardinals, bishops, rabbinical clergy as well as lay leaders and elected officials.

The Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC) was involved in helping to organize the Israeli delegation in tandem with the Domus Galilaeae Monastery, located in Israel. “This is more than musicians coming together and entertaining a crowd; the symphony was a corporate prayer where all present became one heart seeking reconciliation with one another,” said CJCUC’s Executive Director David Nekrutman. Rabbi Angel Kreiman, CJCUC’s Latin American Director added, “In a place where humanity tried to extinguish hope for millions, today marked a new chapter in Jewish-Christian relations in using faith to bring about a better tomorrow.”

Following the concert, the Israeli delegation stayed on for a couple of days to learn from one another. They were hosted by Kiko Argüello at the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Auschwitz as well as the Cardinal of Krakow. “Walking with priests and seminarians in the very wound of Jewish history gave a whole new meaning to the experience,” observed Rabbi Kreiman.

In the block that houses the clothing and other evidence of the people who were murdered in Auschwitz, there was a window with an outlook of a wall, barbed wire fence, and in a distance, trees. One of the seminarians from Domus Galilaeae Monastery remarked, “We are seeing what others saw over seventy years ago and they probably focused on that tree which represents freedom. This freedom comes with responsibility to never allow humanity to ever replicate this evil again. We must be that tree of life together.”

Commenting on the significance of the Jewish-Christian delegation from Israel sponsored by Kiko Aruello, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Naomi Tsur said that “Meeting a new spirit of reconciliation and mutual respect in the Roman Catholic Church, against the backdrop of Auschwitz and its message of godless cruelty, constitutes a game changer for dialogue between Christians and Jews.”

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