Press Release

ADL Honors Sisters of Our Lady of Sion for Commitment to Justice and Interfaith Affairs

Rome, Italy, February 10, 2017 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) honored The Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion for its commitment to justice and deep valuing of interfaith affairs. A delegation of ADL leaders, in Rome for a meeting with Pope Francis, presented members of the order on February 9 with the ADL Cardinal Bea Interfaith Award, which recognizes those who contribute to Catholic-Jewish relations.

The Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion was founded in France in 1847 by Theodore Ratisbonne. Ratisbonne grew up in a Jewish family at a time when many Jews were assimilated into French society, losing sight of their Jewish roots. As a young man, Ratisbonne was baptized and soon after ordained as priest in Strasbourg. Seeking to respond to requests from Jewish families for instruction in the Catholic faith, Ratisbonne gathered a group of women to assist him, and this became the order of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion.

Following World War II, the vision of the order underwent a radical change. During the war, many Sisters of Sion in France, Belgium and Italy came into contact with Jews fleeing from Nazi persecution. Risking their own lives, the sisters harbored them in their convents, and this started a deep soul-searching process to determine if prayer for conversion was the right way to express their love of the Jews.

“The remarkable history of this group really provides a framework for how we should approach interreligious engagement today with deep compassion,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “When we dig deep into what Cardinal Bea stood for – in terms of advocating for a new Vatican theology at the time - and not remaining quiet after the horrors of the Holocaust – we see the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion. We honor them for their continued promotion of Jewish-Catholic dialogue around the world and inclusion of the teachings of Nostra Aetate in all of their work.”

“We Sisters of Sion are very honoured to have received the Cardinal Bea Interfaith Award from the Anti-Defamation League in recognition for the work the Sisters have done in the past and are still doing in many parts of the world,” said Sister Clare Jardine, Congregational Leadership Team member. “In accepting this award we continue to stand side by side with our Jewish sisters and brothers in their struggle against anti-Semitism, to help Christians and others to understand the relationship between Christianity and Judaism and to work together for justice, peace and mutual understanding throughout the world.”

The Cardinal Bea Interfaith Award was established by ADL to perpetuate the memory of the enlightened German Jesuit scholar who helped transform the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people. Cardinal Bea’s efforts made possible the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and Nostra Aetate, the landmark document that revolutionized the Catholic Church’s approach to Jews and Judaism after nearly 2000 years of church-directed anti-Semitism.

“Cardinal Bea was truly the architect of the movement to heal centuries – old wounds, and launched a process to build reconciliation, respect and mutual understanding between Jews and Catholics,” said Rabbi David Fox Sandmel, ADL Director of Interreligious Engagement. “The Sisters of Our Lady of Sion truly embody this approach and thinking, not only mandated by their mission, but based on their threefold commitment to the Church, the Jewish people and steadfast commitment to justice.”

Past recipients of the award include:

  • 2015 – Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York
  • 2010 – Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Krakow, Poland
  • 2008 – Cardinal William Keeler, Baltimore, MD
  • 2005 – Sister Rose Thering, New Jersey
  • 2001 – Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, Milwaukee, WI
  • 1998 – Archbishop Justin Francis Rigali, St. Louis, MO
  • 1995 – Cardinal Adam Maida, Detroit. MI
  • 1992 – Bishop James Malone, Youngstown, OH
  • 1989 – Archbishop Francis John Mugavero, New York, NY
  • 1985 -- Archbishop John O’Connor, New York, NY
  • 1984 -- Cardinal Bernard Law, Boston, MA

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.