WASHINGTON (Apr. 30)
The more than 2000 persons who filled the National Cathedral of the Episcopal Church yesterday for the conclusion of the eight “Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust” heard a strong appeal for Christians to understand the Holocaust and prevent its recurrence.
“The time has come for something more than a generalized non-sectarian good feeling,” Sen. John C. Danforth (R.Mo.), an Episcopal minister, told the interfaith congregation which included First Lady Rosalynn Carter and Treasury Secretary W. Michael Blumenthal, who is himself a refugee from Nazi Germany. “The time has come for an examination of the Holocaust in the light of what each of us professes as believing persons.”
The service here marked the end of a week of observances throughout the country which started with a memorial service in New York’s Temple Emanu-El April 22 and featured a ceremony marking International Holocaust Day at the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol last Tuesday which was addressed by President Carter.
Also participating in yesterday’s service at the National Cathedral were Msgr. Francis V. Lally of the U.S. Catholic Conference, Rabbi Irving Greenberg, executive director of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust; and the Rev. John Walker, Episcopal Bishop of Washington.
RAISED IN THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
In his sermon, Danforth called on the congregation to “face an uncomfortable fact squarely and frankly. The murder of six million Jews was accomplished by people who, while having reverted to a paganism, had been raised in the Christian faith. Their ideology was, of course, hopelessly twisted and insane. But it sprang, somehow, from the traditions of Christianity–in a contorted grotesque shape, wholly inconsistent with the tenets of our religion.”
Outlining persecutions and killings of Jews through the centuries, Danforth said that “brutally anti-Semitic activity, perpetrated by persons thoroughly familiar with Christianity, or even worse, in the name of Christianity is, therefore, not of recent origin. Its roots have been traced to the time of the early church.”
The Holocaust must be considered the darkest single period of human history, Danforth stated. “It was the blackest epoch of history, born in the darkest regions of the soul.” He pointed out that “the extreme to which sin was carried by the Nazis creates a sense of nightmarish unreality in our minds. It is difficult for us to comprehend the magnitude of the Holocaust.”
Stressing that six million Jews had been murdered, one million of them children, Danforth said: “It was true genocide. It was a systematic effort to destroy an entire people just because they were a people–they were Jews.” Christians often point out that some of their faith were also victims of the Holocaust, dissenting clergy in particular, Danforth observed. “This is true, but this was not genocide,” he declared. “Christians were not put to death because they were Christians. Jews were put to death because they were Jews.”