Legacy of Aristides de Sousa Mendes celebrated in New York in April

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The legacy of Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes will be celebrated on April 7 in New York, at an event that will bring together various diplomatic and institutional representations and will also honor Brazilian humanist Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas.

João Crisóstomo, the promoter of projects in memory of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, explained to Lusa that the reason for bringing Sousa Mendes and Souza Dantas together in the same celebration came from the similarities between the two: “Both Portuguese-speaking, both diplomats, both were in France at the beginning of the Second World War, both decided to disobey the directives of their governments and gave visas to refugees who desperately sought them out to escape the Nazis and concentration camps where the majority ended up suffocated and then incinerated.”

“Later they were both convicted in court for what they had done, and in their defenses, in different years and places, without knowing each other, they both declared that they had acted because their conscience as Christians told them to. They were both recognized and honored by Yad Vashem [Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust]. And, as if stamped with a common destiny, they died in the same month and the same year, within a few days of each other: Aristides on April 3 and Souza Dantas on April 16, 1954. So it made sense to talk about both of them,” explained João Crisóstomo.

The event, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the diplomats’ deaths, will take place at the Slovenian Church of St. Cyril in Manhattan and will include a Catholic mass presided over by Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations.

Portugal’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ana Paula Zacarias, is also expected to speak, followed by a screening of the film “The Consul of Bordeaux”.

João Crisóstomo, who with the other members of the “Day of Conscience” Committee promoted this tribute, also expects the presence of various diplomatic and institutional representations, such as those from Portugal and East Timor, theAmerican Sephardic Federation, the Sousa Mendes Foundation, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, the mayor of Mineola, Portuguese-American Paulo Pereira, Portuguese-American Senator Jack Martins, representatives of the Portuguese communities in the USA, among others.

Crisóstomo has spent years urging the Vatican and Portuguese institutions to support the cause of Conscience Day, a project of annual celebrations in various countries, which, on June 17, marks the day on which the Portuguese consul in Bordeaux, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, gave priority to his conscience over administrative rules and helped save tens of thousands of people from the Holocaust by authorizing visas and passports.

The Portuguese activist gave special prominence to June 17, 2020, when Pope Francis evoked Aristides de Sousa Mendes in a speech.

“Today is ‘Day of Conscience’, inspired by the testimony of the Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who, 80 years ago, decided to follow the voice of conscience and saved the lives of thousands of Jews and other persecuted people,” the Pope said on the occasion, during a General Audience.

A former butler to Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy, former first lady of the United States, in New York, João Crisóstomo used the contacts he had made throughout his life to fight, among other causes, for the memory of Aristides de Sousa Mendes.

“We must remember Aristides de Sousa Mendes so that he is not forgotten, but the first reason is that by remembering him, we remember his courage in helping others. We should remember him to remind ourselves that, like him, today we also have to have the courage to do what is right and needs to be done, even if it requires effort and even sacrifice on our part, especially to help those who, through no fault of their own, are poor and need our help,” said the Portuguese.

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the death of the two diplomats, the “Day of Conscience” Committee intends, with this event in New York, “to keep the legacy of these two humanists alive, so that the courage of these two great human beings continues to be an inspiration and motivating force for similar action in our day,” João Crisóstomo said.

Hervé Hubert
Hervé Hubert
Hervé Hubert is a 55-year-old writer and journalist based in Porto, Portugal. Born in France, he brings a unique blend of French and Portuguese perspectives to his work. Education Hervé studied Journalism and Literature at the University of Lyon in France. After completing his studies, he gained valuable experience working with various French media outlets (Portugal France also). Career He worked for several years as a journalist in France before making the move to Portugal. In Porto, he joined the Portugal Pulse team as a staff writer. Skills Hervé specializes in storytelling, investigative journalism, and cultural commentary. He has a flair for capturing complex issues in a relatable way. Personal Life He currently resides in Porto and enjoys the city's rich culture, from Fado music to Francesinha cuisine. Hervé continues to maintain strong ties to his French heritage, often traveling back to France for family visits and cultural exploration. With his unique background and diverse skill set, Hervé Hubert adds a layered, multicultural lens to every story he covers.

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