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In his 25 year papacy, John Paul II has greatly improved Catholic-Jewish relations.
RUTH E. GRUBER
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
"Nevertheless, we must give credit that
this pope has, in spirit and in substance,
made historic gestures that recognize the
dignity and the suffering of the Jewish peo-
wenty-five years ago this month,
ple," he said.
white smoke billowed from a
"I cannot presume to predict what a
chimney above the Vatican to
future Pope might do, but I pray that future
signal_the election of a new pope
leaders of the Roman Catholic church will
— Karol Wojtyla, the 58-year-old archbish-
continue Pope John Paul II's transformation
op of Krakow, the first pontiff ever chosen
of Christian teachings about Jews and
from Poland and the first non-Italian to sit
on the papal throne in 456 years.
Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish
Wojtyla, who took the name John Paul
Committee's international director for inter-
II to honor his immediate predecessor,
religious affairs, describes John Paul's contri-
marked the silver anniversary of his election
butions to Catholic-Jewish reconciliation as
on Thursday. Now 83 and visibly marked
"unique and historic." The pope, he said,
by age and illness, he has left a decisive
"has had the courage and vision to take the
mark on the world, on Catholicism and, in
Catholic-Jewish relationship to a new level
particular, on the long-troubled relations
of deeper dialogue, in which the relationship
between Catholics and Jews.
with the Jewish people is seen within the
Though a staunch conservative on most
Catholic world as being something that is at
Catholic and social issues, John Paul II has
the root and heart of Christian identity
made bettering Catholic-Jewish relations a
centerpiece of his policy, and has taken rev-
John Paul II was elected to the papacy
olutionary strides throughout his tenure.
only 13 years after the Vatican's historic
"He was the first pope to have this publicly
Nostra Aetate declaration opened the way
and high on his agenda," said Allan Gale,
toward Catholic-Jewish dialogue. That dec-
associate director of the Jewish Community
laration, issued in 1965 by the Second
Council of Metropolitan Detroit in
Vatican Council convened by Pope John
XXIII, condemned anti-Semitism and, for
Today, despite some lingering tensions
the first time, officially repudiated the age-
and unresolved issues — including conflict-
old assertion that the "perfidious Jews" were
ing views of the role of Pope Pius XII dur-
Pope John Paul II salutes the crowd at his 25th anniversary mass in St.
collectively responsible for the crucifixion of
ing World War II — many Jewish
Peter's Square at the Vatican on Oct. 16 (AP Photo/Massimo Sambucetti)
observers say John Paul II will be remem-
The JCCouncil's Gale sees this support of
bered as the best pope ever for the Jews.
the declaration as making a serious impact,
"Pope John has encouraged the church
but with more work ahead.
the rabbi said.
to proceed vigorously on reconciliation with the
"While he is firmly committed to Nostra Aetate,
"While there continue to be some controversies
Jewish people," said Rabbi Irwin Groner of
there is concern that it has not "trickled down to the
insensitivities, this pope has been the most
Congregation Shaarey Zedek. Rabbi Groner, along
masses, particularly in the Hispanic world," Gale said.
responsive to Jewish concerns," Gale said.
with Detroit Archbishop, Adam Cardinal Maida
"-Even in the United States, Hispanics continue to
"Pope John Paul II has indeed brought an unprece-
founded the Religious Leaders Forum, consisting of
show high levels of anti-Semitic feelings."
dented sensitivity to the arena of Catholic-Jewish rela-
leaders of various faith communities.
tions," said Rabbi Daniel Nevins of Adat Shalom
"The pope's visit to Israel and expressions of apolo-
Witness To Hatred
"We can be critical and ask why it took so
gy to the Jewish people went beyond policy, to
Paul's papacy expanded on the Nostra Aerate,
emphasize the responsibility of the church to elimi-
Jewish terms, it has been marked by dramatic
nate anti-Semitic teachings and thus develop an edu-
— starting with the pontiff's own personal his-
cational program about the Shoah so the next genera-
avoided accepting direct responsibility for the anti-
tory. Perhaps most importantly, he was an eyewitness
don will understand the responsibility of the church,"
Semitism of past Popes and other Church leaders.
both to the Holocaust and to the oppressive and often