This Tuesday is Awareness Day. The initiative – 74 years after the “heroic gesture” of Sousa Mendes – came from a Portuguese resident in New York. A day to show the world the “heroism” of Aristides de Sousa Mendes.
Aristides de Sousa Mendes will be honored this Tuesday, June 17, in churches and synagogues from around the world. The idea of creating Awareness Day came from João Crisóstomo, a Portuguese resident in New York.
The aim is that “the name of Aristides Sousa Mendes is spoken at international level.” In 1996, João Crisóstomo came to a conclusion: “It is a name and history unknown outside Portugal,” says “Renascença”.
Since then, João Crisóstomo has promoted initiatives that help “to make known to the world the name of Sousa Mendes (1885-1954), his dignity and his heroism.” Colloquiums, conferences, publication of books, in addition to celebrations on 17 June, are among the main initiatives.
It was on June 17, 1940 that Aristides Sousa Mendes decided to ‘follow conscience, against the instructions of his superiors, “and visas from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Portugal to all those fleeing the Nazi troops.
For five days, the diplomat allowed thousands of Jews and other persecuted they could leave Bordeaux and thus not to be killed by the men of the Third Reich.
Throughout this week, there will be initiatives and religious celebrations in Portugal (one of them will be in Lisbon Cathedral, Friday, at 19h00, chaired by the Patriarch of Lisbon, D. Manuel Clemente), United States, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Rome, Rio de Janeiro and Venezuela.
Cardinals, bishops and rabbis from around the world have welcomed “with great enthusiasm” the proposal says João Crisóstomo.
The organizer of the Awareness Day would liked that the Pope Francisco also participate and wrote him a letter to that effect.
He believes that in the coming years is likely to be “the Holy Father to lead the initiative.”
In Portugal, the initiative is organized with the collaboration of Aristides de Sousa Mendes Foundation. Maria do Carmo Vieira, from the board of directors of the foundation, believes that this is a way to remember “the example of a brave man.”
Maria do Carmo Vieira account that joined the initiative seven Portuguese bishops, several provincial religious orders and priests as well as the Israeli communities of Lisbon and Porto.