I have already written several time about Father Patrick Desbois and his important work. Our exhibition, The Shooting of Jews in Ukraine: Holocaust by Bullets, closed today. Among its last visitors was a delegation of Catholic leaders, who were shown through the exhibition by Father Desbois. The delegation, led by the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Vingt-Trois, included a number of Cardinals and Bishops, primarily from France, who came to New York to visit the Museum and meet with Jewish leaders.
Here is an excerpt from my welcoming remarks:
When Father Patrick Desbois called me several weeks ago and announced that he would like to bring a group of high church officials to the Museum, I immediately said yes. After all, it was here in the Museum, in 2005, that Father Desbois first described to the Jewish world the full scope of his undertaking –locating and identifying the graves of Jews murdered by the Germans in Ukraine during the Holocaust. And it was it was the Museum that became the first American venue to host the remarkable exhibition that details Father Desbois’s work.
I immediately said yes because we have always sought a close connection with the Catholic Church, indeed John Cardinal O’Connor spoke at the dedication of our Museum and forged our connection with the schools of the Archdiocese, stating that it was his desire that every student from every Catholic school visit the Museum. And since then, thousands of Catholic students and their teachers have come to the Museum and learned about a painful and difficult history. They have learned about this history because people like Cardinal O’Connor – and Father Desbois -- recognized that, to become a good man or woman, to become a good citizen, to become a good Catholic, one must learn about and learn from perhaps the darkest moment in human history.
And so, we welcome this group of distinguished leaders to our Museum as we continue to carry out our crucial mission. And we welcome them at a particularly painful moment as we try to absorb the still stinging news that a reinstated Church leader, Bishop Richard Williamson, has publicly denied a history that any recent graduate of a New York Archdiocese school knows to be true and irrefutable.
We welcome our guests knowing that, by their visit, they send an undeniable message to all that there is no room for Williamson’s message, or that of others like him, in the hearts and minds of good men and women, of good citizens of the world.
Speaking before the press after touring the exhibition, Cardinal Vingt-Trois made a very strong statement on the subject of Holocaust denial:
Let this be another opportunity to recall -- whether the time is right or not -- that being a Catholic is radically incompatible with denying the Holocaust, and that recent statements have caused suffering among our Jewish brothers as well as among many Catholics.