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June 21, 1985 - Image 80

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-06-21

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Friday, June 21, 1985





A Unlikely Trim

In The Ivory Coast

An artist's rendition of the

cathedral. The outline of the
building is designed to suggest
the shape of an elephant, the
national symbol of the Ivory

Israel, the Vatican and the
Ivory Coast are building one
of the world's largest
cathedrals — and creating
paths of cooperation.



Editor's Note: Gary Rosenblatt participated in a recent
two-week mission to West Africa, sponsored by the
Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, which includ-
ed visits to Liberia, Cameroon and the Ivory Coast.
The purpose of the mission, according to ADL Interna-
tional Affairs official Marvin Rappaport, who coor-
dinated the visit, was "to extend a hand of friendship
and appreciation from the American Jewish communi-
ty to these countries which have improved relations
with Israel."
This is the first of Rosenblatt's reports on the visit.

Abidjan, Ivory Coast—
Israel, the Vatican and West
Africa's Ivory Coast have
formed an unlikely trinity to
create what will be the
largest Catholic church in the
world outsideof the Holy See.
Pope John Paul II has pro-
mised to come to this West
African capital in August to
consecrate the cathedral, the
centerpiece of a $12 million
project which includes a
Catholic cultural center,
residence halls, religious
school, offices, library,
museum and an outdoor
plaza where up to 100,000
people can listen to mass. The
cathedral itself will seat 3,500
worshipers with standing
room for an additional 2,500.
Sonitra, a branch of
Israel's largest construction
company, Solel Boneh, was
chosen for this major work on
the strength of its solid track
record in the Ivory Coast.
Sonitra, a presence in Abid-
jan for 20 years, has built
most of the country's major
roads and Abidjan's in-
dustrial complexes as well as
the largest hotel and the
presidential palace.
Only Sonitra in all of West
Africa had the technical ex-
pertise to attempt such an

ambitious project, according
to a papal representative.
During a special tour of the
site arranged for a seven-
member delegation of the
Anti-Defamation League of
B'nai B'rith, Lazar Orens-
tein, Sonitra president, ex-
pressed confidence that the
cathedral will be completed in
time for the pope's scheduled
Aug. 14 visit. He said some
500 native Ivoirian laborers
are working around the clock
in the tropical heat and
humidity to meet the
deadline for the project,
which began in February
Project engineer Meir
Haran told the visitors the
scope of the job "is so large •
we are using the same equip-
ment we use to build
The cathedral spire is
designed to tower over the
main structure and is unique
in that the seven huge steel
cables, symbolizing the seven
sacraments, connect the
cathedral to the spire and
support the entire edifice. At
its peak, the spire joins three
towers which represent the
The three pillars, which are
hollow, feature two balconies

jutting out at one point to
form a cross. Visitors may
either climb the 440 steps or
take an elevator to the top of
the main tower for a
panoramic view of modern
downtown Abidjan with its
highrises, lush tropical
foliage and miles of Atlantic
Ocean shoreline.
Haran explained that, in
addition to the symbols of
the Catholic church, the
cathedral exterior has been
designed to suggest the
outline of a majestic
elephant, the national symbol
of the Ivory Coast.
The architect of the
cathedral, Aldo Spirit() of
Milan, told the group that
travertine marble and stain-
ed glass windows are being
imported from Italy for both
facade and interior.
Although only about 15
percent of the nation's six
million citizens are Catholic,
there are two major reasons
for the church to be built
here: Felix Houphouet-
Boigny, president for 25
years, is himself a Catholic.
Also, some feel the impact of
the new cathedral may help
the Catholic church counter
the growing influence of
Islam in The Third World.

See related story Page 46

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