Porto's Jews and Catholics join forces for unique interfaith event

The 'Global Project in the Fields of Culture and Religion' presents an opportunity for both communities to reach out in charity and mutual understanding.

Bishop Manuel Linda and Porto Jewish Community President Diaz Ben Zion embrace at an interfaith event, December 17, 2019.  (photo credit: SUPPLIED)
Bishop Manuel Linda and Porto Jewish Community President Diaz Ben Zion embrace at an interfaith event, December 17, 2019.
(photo credit: SUPPLIED)
The Jewish and Catholic communities of Porto, Portugal, have come together in an historic interfaith event, to promote dialogue and understanding between the two groups.
The Jewish Community of Porto and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Porto have together hosted the Global Project in the Fields of Culture and Religion, a program of charitable giving and cultural events.
On Tuesday, a delegation of twenty people from each community met for an interfaith dialogue hosted by the bishop of Porto, Dom Manuel Linda, at the Catholic Episcopalian Palace. The group paid a visit to the Catholic museum and presented financial gifts to two Porto charities, followed by a visit to the Jewish Museum of Porto, and a lunch at the Kadoorie-Mekor Haim Synagogue.
The synagogue is the largest in the Iberian Peninsula, consisting of over 400 members from more than 30 countries. It has a rabbinic court, structures for kashrut, offers courses for schoolteachers on combating antisemitism and provides food for Shabbat meals in 11 countries.
The cathedral of Porto is one of the city's oldest monuments, having been started in the 12th century. The Episcopal Palace, meanwhile, is the former residence of the bishops of Porto, but now serves as a museum.
Present at the event was Bishop Linda; Porto Jewish Community president Diaz Ben Zion; Gabriela Cantergi, who is in charge of interfaith relations in the Jewish community; and other senior figures from both communities.
In addition to the day's program, four films have been produced with the aim of promoting brotherhood between the groups.
“Social, cultural and other dialogue is necessary to achieve full tolerance between the Roman Catholic Church and Jewish communities, particularly in societies in which negative stereotypes are entrenched, ignoring for example the fact that many Jews struggle financially,” Cantergi said.
Short film The Nun's Kaddish has gained several film festival awards, which depicts an act of kindness when two nuns witness the Jewish ritual, was aired at the Catholic Museum on Tuesday as part of the event.
Through its success the film came to the attention of Pope Francis, who wrote to the Jewish community to say that he “called down divine favors in abundance on all those directly or indirectly involved in making the film, as they represent the essence of fraternity, hope and joy in the heart of the world."
The three further films highlight episodes of Jewish and Christian joint history in Portugal: 1618 depicts the inquisition in Portugal, and the resistance given by priests, citizens and city authorities, whom had lived and worked alongside the Jewish population for centuries; Sefared tells the story of the Marranos in the mid-20th century, a group who were both Jewish and Christian, and thus outside the mainstream of both groups; and The Light of Judah is an historical documentary regarding the history of Jews in Portugal, and in Porto in particular.
“This project is a severance with a past beset by misunderstandings, in the certainty of a future forged hand in hand. It is unique in the world, as Porto is also unique,” Bishop Linda said.