09 June 2022
Later today, 9 June 2022, Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan will be granted a rare private audience with His Holiness Pope Francis in the Vatican. At the meeting, the two will discuss the importance of Holocaust research and remembrance in the Christian world. While three Popes, including Pope Francis, have visited the Mount of Remembrance at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, this meeting marks the first-ever such encounter in the Holy See, the seat of the Catholic Church. The agenda of this meeting will concentrate on bolstering collaborative activities between Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, and the Vatican in areas of Holocaust remembrance, education and documentation, and to discuss efforts to fight antisemitism and racism worldwide. To that end, Israeli Ambassador to the Vatican H.E. Mr. Rafi Schutz will also be in attendance.
Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan remarked before the meeting:
"The very fact that I was granted this private audience with His Holiness Pope Francis – the first time a Chairman of Yad Vashem has been given the opportunity to meet with a Pope in the Vatican – highlights the importance that the head of the Catholic Church places on Holocaust remembrance and the fight against antisemitism. During our meeting, along with various issues I will raise, I will propose 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."
During his audience with His Holiness, Dayan will present Pope Francis with a gift on behalf of Yad Vashem; a replica of a colorful synagogue painting depicting the Tablets of the Covenant (The Ten Commandments) given to the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai. The original painting, created by I. Eisikowicz, was an adornment on a twentieth-century Torah ark in Cernăuți, Romania (now Chernivtsi, Ukraine), and is all that remains from this once-thriving center of Jewish life before it was destroyed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. The drawing depicts the scene of the Revelation at Sinai according to scripture; the Tablets of the Covenant rest on the lush green Mount Sinai against a background of a starlit sky. The Ten Commandments are written on the tablets at the base of flames of fire, topped by a crown adorned with a Star of David. The Tablets of the Covenant represent the eternal Judeo-Christian values, and the plaque model is therefore a poignant gift from a representative of the Jewish people to the Pope.
The plaque was kept in dilapidated and abandoned synagogues in Romania until it was acquired by Yad Vashem during an operation initiated in the 1990s to collect and rescue religious objects and relics remaining in Romania after the war. This artifact is one of dozens of religious artifacts on display in the Yad Vashem Synagogue.