Yad Vashem chairman to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican

The meeting will concentrate on bolstering collaborative activities between Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, and the Vatican.

 Pope Francis greets people after leading the Palm Sunday Mass at Saint Peter's Square, at the Vatican, April 10, 2022. (photo credit: GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE / REUTERS)
Pope Francis greets people after leading the Palm Sunday Mass at Saint Peter's Square, at the Vatican, April 10, 2022.
(photo credit: GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE / REUTERS)

Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan will have a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday.

At the meeting, the two will discuss the importance of Holocaust research and remembrance in the Christian world. While three popes, including 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 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 efforts to fight antisemitism and racism worldwide. Israeli Ambassador to the Vatican Rafi Schutz will also be in attendance.

“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,” remarked Dayan.

“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,” he said. 

 Replica of colorful synagogue paiting depicting the Tablets of the Covenant presented by Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan to Pope Francis.  (credit: YAD VASHEM) Replica of colorful synagogue paiting depicting the Tablets of the Covenant presented by Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan to Pope Francis. (credit: YAD VASHEM)

A memorable gift

Dayan will also present Francis, on behalf of Yad Vashem, a replica of a colorful synagogue painting depicting the Ten Commandments being given to the Children of Israel at Mount Sinai.

The original painting, created by I. Eisikowicz, was an adornment on a 20th-century Torah ark in Cernauti, Romania (now Chernivtsi, Ukraine). It 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 Revelation at Sinai according to Torah. The Tablets of the Covenant rest on the lush green Mount Sinai against the 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.

"This private audience... highlights the importance that the head of the Catholic Church places on Holocaust remembrance and the fight against antisemitism."

Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan

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 the country after the war. This artifact is one of the dozens of religious items on display in the Yad Vashem Synagogue.