March 10, 2005

LOOMING LARGE:

A remarkable legacy (DAVID BERGER, Mar. 10, 2005, THE JERUSALEM POST)

With Pope John Paul II in the twilight of his papacy I've been reflecting on his life and what he will leave behind him. He was born Karol Joseph Wojtyla in 1920 in Wadowice, a Polish town of 8,000 Christians and 2,000 Jews. Since most of these Jews were deeply religious, the future pope was exposed to a vibrant Jewish communal life, and he developed friendships with his Jewish neighbors. Though he did not participate in organized efforts to rescue Jews during the war - and perhaps had no meaningful opportunity to do so - there are credible accounts of his rendering assistance to Jewish individuals in distress.

At the second Vatican Council during the mid-1960s, he is reported to have expressed support for the need to change historic Christian attitudes toward the Jews, although he did not speak out publicly when Polish Jewry was subjected to attack in 1968.

Thus, when he was elected pope in 1978, Jews aware of his record had reason to expect a sympathetic hearing on issues of concern to them, but little ground for confidence that Jewish issues would loom large in his consciousness. In fact, however, he gave extraordinary attention to Jewish affairs, generally in strikingly positive terms.


Posted by Orrin Judd at March 10, 2005 9:18 AM
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