Symbolic step forward for Jewish-Catholic ties in Jerusalem

Stephen Ollendorff, president of US-based Center for Interreligious Understanding (CIU), presented a 1.3-meter high Holocaust memorial menorah (seven branched candelabrum) to a leading Roman Catholic institution in Jerusalem on Sunday.

The specially commissioned six-branch candelabrum, an earlier version of which was presented at the Vatican in 1999 to Pope John Paul II, will remain on permanent display at The Pontifical Biblical Institute.

The CIU has placed that and other menorahs to further awareness of the Holocaust and to emphasise the significant changes in Catholic teachings on Jews and Judaism of recent decades.

"CIU's Menorah Project provides an opportunity for Jews and Christians to come together to learn about our history, our shared values and why we must live and work together for a world of justice and peace," said Jack Bemporad, Executive Director of the organisation.

"At a time when religious conflict defines so much of our lives, the light of the menorah is a source of hope and a constant reminder that the work of reconciliation and understanding must be our own."

During a brief ceremony, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, former Archbishop of Milan, was recognised for decades of commitment to furthering Jewish- Christian Dialogue.

The menorah is a commissioned creation of Aharon Bezalel, an acclaimed Israeli artist, and each of the six places for candles symbolises one million of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.