The Power of Memory - Sho'ah Memorial Service in the Crypt

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
9 May 2016

The 2016 Sho'ah Memorial Service will be held in
St Mary's Cathedral Crypt

In the Crypt of St Mary's Cathedral this evening there will be a service to remember those who died in the Holocaust during World War II.

Catholics, those from other Christian denominations and those from other faiths will join Sydney's Jewish community at St Mary's Cathedral for the city's annual Sho'ah Memorial Service.

Sr Giovanni Farquer RSJ, Director of the Archdiocese of Sydney's Commission of Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations will attend this event that has become an important tradition and a way to ensure the enormity of the horror of what occurred during World War II is never forgotten.

During the service, symbolic gestures invite those present to remember the horrors committed against the Jewish people during World War II and the shocking blow that such evil delivered to humanity.

The table used during the service is dressed in black and white: black for the darkness of the Sho'ah, the catastrophic tempest which blew six million Jews to their death during the years of the Nazi regime, from 1933-1945; white for the Jewish liturgical colour of holiness and atonement. A yellow Star of David attached to the black drape calls to mind the command of Hitler that all Jews must wear this badge on their outer garments.

Nine candles will be placed on the table: six will burn for the six million Jews who died; one will burn for the non-Jews who lost their lives during those years; the eighth candle will honour the righteous gentiles, who, in those desolate, dark days, risked their lives for the sake of their Jewish neighbours. Towards the end of the service a ninth candle will be placed on the altar to declare that never again must there be a Sho'ah .

Earlier this year, Pope Francis used his weekly audience address on 27 January, an international Day of Remembrance to decry the treatment of the Jewish people in World War II and called for a strengthening of the special relationship that Christians have with their Jewish brothers and sisters.

"During their history the Jewish people have had to experience violence and persecution, even to the extermination of European Jews during the Holocaust," Pope Francis said.

"Six million individuals, simply because they belonged to the Jewish people, were victims of the most inhuman atrocities perpetrated in the name of an ideology that sought to replace God with man," he said. 

Sr Giovanni Farquer RSJ Executive Director of the Archdiocese of Sydney's Commission of Ecumenism and
Inter Religious Relations

Echoing his predecessor Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis told the Jewish community, "You are our older brothers and sisters," and unequivocally condemned all forms of anti-Semitism. One week before on 20 January 2016, Pope Francis visited the Great Synagogue of Rome and there paid homage to all victims of the Holocaust.

Earlier this year in the Archdiocese of Sydney the strengthening of Catholic-Jewish and interfaith relations was marked with the launch of a Joint Statement on 16 March arising from the 50th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate (In Our Time), a Vatican declaration which opened the Church to living dialogue with Jews and people of other faiths. The Joint Statement reaffirms the principles of Nostra Aetate and celebrates the mutual understanding and respect that has grown into a deep and enriching friendship particularly between the peoples of the Abrahamic faiths. It commits to ongoing dialogue and recognition of the rights and dignity of Jews and Christians as beloved children of God. 

Sydney's first interfaith Sho'ah Memorial Service was initiated by Sister Leonore Sharry of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion as a tribute to those who lost their lives in Nazi concentration camps, and was held at Rookwood Cemetery in 1991.

The following year the service was transferred to the Crypt at St Mary's Cathedral where it has continued to be held every year ever since. The Sho'ah Memorial Service is an initiative of the Council of Christians and Jews of NSW.

The Sho'ah Memorial Service begins at 6pm on Monday 9 May in the Crypt. All are welcome.