Rabbi Arthur Schneier, senior rabbi of Park East Synagogue in Manhattan and founder of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, was conferred a Papal Knight of St. Sylvester by Cardinal Dolan this week in the presence of top religious leaders and elected officials.
Archbishop Bernardito C. Auza, the apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, hosted the April 27 ceremony.
“Pope Francis is bestowing the honor on Rabbi Arthur Schneier who has worked unceasingly to promote peace and mutual understanding, in the firm conviction that respect for fundamental human rights, including religious freedom, are indispensable values for all peoples of the world to enjoy peace, security and shared prosperity,” said the archbishop in a statement. “A Holocaust survivor, Rabbi Schneier has always held this conviction in his heart and made it a principle of life.”
The Vienna-born Rabbi Schneier, 85, survived the Holocaust in Budapest, Hungary, and arrived in the United States in 1947. Senior rabbi of the 125-year old Park East Synagogue since 1962, he founded the Appeal of Conscience Foundation in 1965.
Rabbi Schneier, in a statement, noted that “the rare honor” Pope Francis bestowed upon him “marks the 50th anniversary of my meetings in the Vatican and the beginning of the cooperation between the Holy See and the Appeal of Conscience Foundation in helping advance religious freedom and human rights.”
“It is also the year that we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate,” the landmark Vatican II document, which the rabbi called “a turning point in Catholic Jewish relations.”
Rabbi Schneier said, “The visit of St. Pope Paul John Paul II to the Rome synagogue, Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to synagogues in Europe as well as Park East Synagogue, the first papal visit to a synagogue in the United States, are historic events that have contributed to the evolving relationship between Catholic Church and the Jewish people. I am greatly honored to be recognized by His Holiness, a voice of conscience who has embraced humanity with his outreach, compassion, love and mercy to all of God’s children.”
Rabbi Schneier also stated, “As we remember the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe, sadly, the hope for a new world order of peace has not materialized. We face once again a volatile world in conflict with radical extremist having hijacked religion to legitimize their barbarism inflicted on religious minorities particularly, Christian minorities who are in the front line of persecution being oppressed, uprooted and decapitated.”
The ceremony was attended by former United States Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger; Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York; former New York City Mayor David Dinkins; former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly; Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Archbishop Barsamian, of the Armenian Church of America; and a host of other Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious officials.