European Jewish Congress
Sicilian Catholic cleric honoured for returning ancient synagogue land to Jews
Italy
Sicilian Catholic cleric honoured for returning ancient synagogue land to Jews

“This is the first step on a long path,” Archbishop of Palermo Corrado Lorefice said on Thursday upon receiving the Raoul Wallenberg Medal for transferring to the Jewish community a church - owned facility built atop the ruins of the Great Synagogue of Palermo.

Addressing the audience at a celebratory event at his residence, Lorefice was moved to tears as a he delivered a heartfelt speech.

“This is the first step on long path that we are called to together, to reach God on the day when all the people will be together in paradise,” he said.

He described the medal as “a sign of friendship that warms my heart, and warms the heart of all the Christians of Palermo, and particularly this archdiocese.”

The transfer of the building was requested by the Sicilian Institute of Jewish Studies in conjunction with the Jerusalem- based non-profit Shavei Israel, which is active around the world in communities of bnei anusim, the descendants of Jews who were forcibly converted to Christianity centuries ago.

Rabbi Pinhas Punturello, Shavei Israel’s emissary to Sicily, serves as spiritual leader for the island’s tiny Jewish community and will be the primary operator of the synagogue. He has been active in helping to revive the once-thriving community.

Speaking on behalf of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, the country’s EJC affiliate, its vice president, Giulio DiSegni, expressed the organisation’s “deepest gratitude to those who opened a new perspective for Jewish life in Sicily,” specifically mentioning Lorefice and the archdiocese.

“Taking a look back to the past, we know that Sicily has an extremely important Jewish history,” he said.

The date chosen for the official handover of the facility this year was January 12, the same date as the deadline in 1493 for the expulsion of Jews from the island by order of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon.

 Click here to read the full article in Jerusalem Post

Friday, June 30, 2017
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