Israel's ambassador to the Holy See joined Oblate Father Thomas B. Curran, president of Jesuit-run Rockhurst University in Kansas City, in laying a wreath Oct. 9 at a plaque on campus that pays tribute to the more than 150 Jesuits who died at the hands of the Nazis.
"It is an honor for us to be here together to pay our respect to all the Jesuits who perished in the Holocaust, who sacrificed their lives to save Jews," said Ambassador Zion Evrony. "This is a very unique opportunity to pay our respects on behalf of Israel."
The 55-by-28-inch bronze plaque, dedicated in April 2007, bears the names of 152 Jesuits, who are grouped into three categories: those who were killed, those who died in captivity or as a result of prison conditions, and those who died in concentration camps.
The plaque was a gift of the late Eliot Berkley, a university regent, and his wife, Marcia. The lists were compiled by Jesuit Father Vincent Lapomarda, associate professor of history at the College of the Holy Cross, a Jesuit school in Worcester, Mass.
"This plaque, the memory of Dr. Berkley and the memory of all those who perished in the Shoah is a reminder that in life and in death, we belong together," Father Curran said.
"This is the first time the Israeli ambassador to the Vatican has paid a visit to the U.S. and to come to a Jesuit university during a time when we have a Jesuit pope further strengthens our friendship," the priest said. "This plaque is a reflection of our friendship that has endured."
In 1954, Berkley, a graduate in international relations from Princeton University, founded the International Relations Council, a nonpartisan organization that provides world affairs educational programming in Kansas City. A lifelong advocate of citizen involvement in the foreign policy process, Berkley was director of the council until he retired in 1994. He died in 2012.
According to the university, the plaque on campus is the only one of its kind in the world because it has a complete list of all the Jesuits who perished as a result of Nazi persecution from 1939 to 1945.
A bronze plaque in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Krakow, Poland, lists just the names of Polish Jesuits who were victims of the Nazis.
Evrony's visit to Rockhurst was co-hosted by the university and the Jewish Community Relations Bureau. While on campus he delivered a lecture Oct. 8 on "Conversations Between Jerusalem and Rome," addressing the state of dialogue between Israel and the Holy See, and the history and future of their relationship. The talk was part of the school's visiting scholar lecture series.
Evrony is a career diplomat. Appointed Israel's ambassador to the Holy See in 2012, he has worked on enhancing academic and cultural exchanges and has contributed to the development of a partnership with the Holy See for combating anti-Semitism.
Prior to his current post, he spent two years in Houston as Israel's consul general. From 2006 to 2010, he served as Israel's ambassador to Ireland, where he oversaw a growing trade relationship between the two countries that has risen to more than half a billion dollars a year.
He and his wife, Rita, a social worker, have three children.
In a statement announcing Evrony's visit to Rockhurst, Father Curran said the university was honored to have him on campus.
"We believe interfaith dialogues such as this reflect how much we share in common and serve as the foundation for how much we can accomplish together for the good of all humanity," said the priest.
Father Curran has been president of Rockhurst since June 2006. In late 2011, he entered a three-year transitional period as part of the process to become a member of the Society of Jesus. He was ordained an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales in 1984.