O’connor Urges Shcharansky to Visit New York to March in the Annual Solidarity Day for Soviet Jewry
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O’connor Urges Shcharansky to Visit New York to March in the Annual Solidarity Day for Soviet Jewry

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John Cardinal O’Connor, spiritual leader for some 1.8 million New York Catholics, urged Anatoly Shcharansky, who was released last month from his imprisonment in the Soviet Union and was reunited with his wife Avital in Israel, to come to New York to march in the annual Solidarity Day for Soviet Jewry in May.

“Just one person becomes a tremendous symbol and reminds people throughout the world” of the continuing captivity of many other Jews in the Soviet Union, O’Connor said Sunday at a symposium at Pace University sponsored by American Professors for Peace in the Middle East. The Cardinal is an outspoken critic of the Soviet Union’s treatment of its Jewish citizens.

O’Connor became the second major New York figure to invite Shcharansky to this city. Following his release last month, Mayor Edward Koch also extended an invitation to Shcharansky to visit New York. The former Soviet Prisoner of Conscience thanked Koch, but a date for his visit has not yet been set.


Turning his attention to the Middle East, O’Connor called upon President Reagan to issue a strong statement of concern about what the Cardinal described as Lebanon’s slide toward disintegration. “It is conceivable that Lebanon is about to disappear as a nation,” he told the audience.

The Cardinal, one of the most prominent of America’s religious leaders since he became head of the Archdiocese in 1984, said he plans to travel to Lebanon in three weeks. Six earlier proposed trips to Lebanon had to be scrapped after events in the strife torn country made the trip inadvisable, he said.


One of the key points he made in his one-hour talk, on the symposium’s theme of “Just and Unjust Wars,” was that a “moral relativism” had emerged, which wrongfully depicts the use of violence to accomplish social and political change as justifiable.

Elaborating on this theme, he pointed to the Nazi barbarism in exterminating millions of Jews in the Holocaust and others during its reign. “You could only do this,” O’Connor said, if you felt that another human being is “only relatively human.” He added that if “all values are relative, then human life is relative.”

O’Connor called the Israeli raid in 1981 on an Iraqi nuclear facility justified. He said he would not consider the destruction of the “potentially harmful” facility an offensive act.

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