In April 1998 the then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the leading bishop of Argentina and Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and today Pope Francis, officiated at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires a Mass in memory of Cardinal Antonio Quarracino. Before celebrating the Mass, friends and members of the Wallenberg Foundation gathered at Cardinal Quarracino’s grave in the cathedral, which is just a few feet away from the Mural of Remembrance for the Victims of the Holocaust. Representatives of the Jewish and Catholic communities of Argentina paid homage to Quarracino by placing stones on marble plaque covering the final resting place of the cardinal, which is set into the floor of the historic church.
The memorial at the cathedral is the first such monument installed in a Catholic church. It is dedicated to Jews murdered by National Socialists before and during the Second World War. It was inaugurated by Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Polish president Lech Walesa in April 1997.
In April 1998, the first anniversary of the installation of the Wall of Remembrance for Victims of the Holocaust, Cardinal Bergoglio paid tribute to the millions of people murdered by the Nazis at a memorial unprecedented in the history of Jewish-Christian relations. The mural is a piece of silver of 1.80 meters long by 1.20 meters wide. It is composed of panes of glass under which there are exhibited the pages of Jewish prayer books rescued from the ruins of the Warsaw ghetto, as well as the concentration camps of Treblinka and Auschwitz. It had been inaugurated by Cardinal Quarracino through the inspiration of Baruch Tenenbaum, who created the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. The monument also serves as a reminder of those murdered in the still unresolved terrorist attacks on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and the AMIA Jewish community center in 1994.
The mural exhibits the Kaddish – a Jewish prayer for the dead - and the covers of two books: one of Yiddish fables found in the rubble of the Jewish community center and one of the Book of Samuel, found during the search of survivors, hours after the bombing of the Israeli embassy. There is also a copy of the Passover Haggadah rescued from a concentration camp in 1942, donated by the daughter of one of the victims, Miriam Kesler.
Shortly before his death, in February 1998, Quarracino wrote a letter to Tenembaum in which, among other things, he stated, "Soon it will be the first anniversary of the unveiling of this worthy monument, where I invite Jews who wish to do so to cover their heads. The final location of the mural will be linked to the rest that awaits me within the Cathedral so as to continue preaching brotherhood, as I have done all my life." Fulfilling that desire, upon the death of the cardinal, the mural was placed in chapel inside the cathedral dedicated to Virgin of Luján, on the opposite side of the church where rest the remains of General José de San Martín, the hero of Argentina’s independence.
Cardinal Quarracino added to the testament an expression of his confidence in the future Pope Francis. “I have no doubt that my current coadjutor archbishop Monsignor Jorge Bergoglio, when the moment comes to succeed me, will walk the same path of reconciliation and fraternity with our elder brothers,” wrote Quarracino in reference to his work in interfaith relations with the Jewish people.
In 2004, a replica of the mural was unveiled at the Vaterunser Kirche in Berlin, Germany.
(Rabbi Avruj of Buenos Aires and former Cardinal, Pope Francis)
Serving as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio continued the legacy of Quarracino. In December 2012, for instance, he led an interfaith memorial of the so-called Kristallnacht – the day that thugs orchestrated by Germany’s National Socialist government in 1938 destroyed Jewish property and took Jewish lives. The solemn commemoration was witnessed by Jews, Catholics, and representatives of other Christian churches. The event was organized by Bergoglio’s office on ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue in conjunction with B’nai B’rith, as well as Judeo-Christian Confraternity of Argentina. Besides Archbishop Bergoglio, Rabbi Alejandro Avruj of the Emanuel Community was on hand. Diplomatic representatives included Yoav Adler, Israeli cultural attaché, and German Ambassador Yoav Adler.