The King of Spain has called for Europe to “respect” its Judeo-Christian heritage, as he received a top award for countering anti-Semitism.
King Felipe VI was awarded the Lord Jakobovits Prize of European Jewry on Monday in recognition of his support for Spain’s Jewish community.
During his acceptance speech, the king said Europe “needs the invaluable contribution of its Jewish communities”, and called for the continent to be “respectful to… our common Judeo-Christian values and origins”.
Spain has recently taken the decision to grant citizenship to some 4,500 descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled en masse from Spain in the 15th Century.
Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of Conference of European Rabbis, said: “In an era where anti-Semitism is on the rise throughout Europe, Spain has taken extraordinary measures to make its Jews feel welcome.
“Not only did the minister of justice acknowledge the expulsion of what he has called an ‘historic mistake’, he ensured that action was taken to rectify it.”
King Felipe pointed how one town had come to terms with its anti-Semitic past by changing its name in 2014 from Castrillo Matajudíos (literally: Camp Kill Jews) to Castrillo Mota de Judíos (Jews’ Hill Camp), and said his country was “proud” of its role in sheltering Jews during the Holocaust.
The Spanish king becomes the latest European leader to call for a defence of Europe’s Judeo-Christian civilisation.
Last year, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said it was impossible for Europe to be “free, strong, and respectable” if it lacks “the revitalising power of nations and two thousand years of Christian wisdom”.
He also said that Europe “can be saved”, but only if people “take seriously the traditions, the Christian roots and all the values that are the basis of the civilisation of Europe.”
Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl also said earlier this year that mass migration was threatening Europe’s Judeo-Christian social order, writing that many migrants “follow in significant part, faiths other than Judeo-Christianity, which is one of the foundations of our values and social order”.