Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, was awarded the highest decoration to a non-Italian by Italy's president, Giorgio Napolitano.

Kantor was given the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic award for his work in promoting tolerance and reconciliation, human rights and interfaith dialogue, and his struggle against anti-Semitism and racism, according to a press statement released by the EJC.

“It is an honor to receive this award from the Italian President and I am happy that those who work towards a peaceful and tolerant Europe are being recognized in such a manner,” Kantor said of the award. “I hope awards like this will incentivize more effort towards making our continent a better place and living up to the ideals as laid out in the European Union Charter.”

Kantor met Tuesday with Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata together with a delegation of World Jewish Congress leadership, including WJC President Ronald Lauder, Latin American Jewish Congress President Jack Terpins, Euro-Asian Jewish Congress President Vadim Shulman, WJC Governing Board Chairman Eduardo Elsztain and leaders of the Italian Jewish Community.

During the meeting, the Italian foreign minister, on behalf of the Italian president, granted Kantor the award.

“I am truly humbled by this honor and it is a testament to the never-ending search for true tolerance and peace,” Kantor, who is also co-chairman of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, said. “However, this is an uphill battle as the specter of hatred and racism is regaining a political foothold in Europe and to fight for tolerance we have to display deep and unequivocal intolerance to the intolerant.”

“Too often society allows room for hate, a hearing for racism and a podium for intolerance.” Kantor continued.

At the meeting, Kantor asked for Italy’s help in adding Hezbollah to the European Union's list of proscribed terrorist groups in the wake of the evidence demonstrating that the Lebanese-based organization was behind the murder of Israeli tourists in Burgas last year.

Sant'Agata spoke about the importance of Italy’s relationship with Israel and the Jewish community. “The security of Israel has always been one of my priorities and I admire the commitment of the Jewish State to democracy and human rights,” the Italian foreign minister said. “Our very good relations with the Italian Jewish Community are also dear to my heart.”

Kantor has previously been awarded the Belgian Order of Leopold, the French National Order of the Legion of Honour and the Polish Order of Merit and Medal “Deserved for Tolerance” for his contribution towards tolerance and reconciliation.