Saturday, April 2, 2005

אפיפיור יוחנן פאולוס השני (1920–2005) נ״ע

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Pope John Paul II
(Karol Józef Wojtyła)
18 May 1920 - 2 April 2005

I know many of my fellow Jews will disagree with me, but I've always felt that John Paul II was--aside from Pope John XXIII--the most philo-Judaic pope in recent memory and a very positive influence on Jewish-Catholic relations. I believe it says much that he was the first Pope--other than Peter (Shimon ben Yonah), of course--to ֪visit a synagogue. Above all he was a genuinely good man who strove to serve God. May his memory serve as a source of blessing for all who mourn his passing.
"I remember, first of all, the elementary school in Wadowice, where at least one-fourth of my classmates were Jewish boys. It is appropriate here to mention my friendship with one of them, Jerzy Kluger. It has lasted from my student days to the present time. My eyes still behold, like a living picture, the Jews walking on the Sabbath to the synagogue near our high school. The two religious blocs, Catholic and Jewish, were linked, so I assume, by the knowledge that they worship the same God. Despite the difference in language, the prayers in church and synagogue were based on the same texts. Then came the Second World War, with the concentration camps and the planned extermination. Its primary victims were the sons and daughters of the Jewish people, solely because they were Jews. Everyone who lived in Poland at that time must have come into contact with it, at least indirectly. This was also my personal experience, which I carry inside to this day. Auschwitz, evidently the most salient symbol of the Shoah of the Jewish people, illustrates the level to which a system resting on foundations of racial hatred and aspiration to governmental supremacy of one people can descend The warning of Auschwitz continues to resound. Auschwitz, meaning antisemitism, a massive sin against humankind, signifies that any manifestation of racial hatred that inescapably leads to the trampling of humankind is a great sin against humankind."
- Pope John Paul II, quoted in Yad VaShem's Pope John Paul II: A Portrait
"Jews and Christians share an immense spiritual patrimony, flowing from God's self-revelation. Our religious teachings and our spiritual experience demand that we overcome evil with good. We remember, but not with any desire for vengeance or as an incentive to hatred. For us, to remember is to pray for peace and justice, and to commit ourselves to their cause. Only a world at peace, with justice for all, can avoid repeating the mistakes and terrible crimes of the past.
As bishop of Rome and successor of the Apostle Peter, I assure the Jewish people that the Catholic Church, motivated by the Gospel law of truth and love, and by no political considerations, is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place. The church rejects racism in any form as a denial of the image of the Creator inherent in every human being.
In this place of solemn remembrance, I fervently pray that our sorrow for the tragedy which the Jewish people suffered in the 20th century will lead to a new relationship between Christians and Jews. Let us build a new future in which there will be no more anti-Jewish feeling among Christians or anti-Christian feeling among Jews, but rather the mutual respect required of those who adore the one Creator and Lord, and look to Abraham as our common father in faith.
The world must heed the warning that comes to us from the victims of the Holocaust, and from the testimony of the survivors. Here at Yad Vashem the memory lives on, and burns itself onto our souls. It makes us cry out: 'I hear the whispering of many - terror on every side - but I trust in you, O Lord: I say, "You are my God."' (Psalms 31:13-15)"

Pope John Paul II with Chief Rabbi of Israel Mier Lau at a meeting at the Vatican in 1993 (Image hosted by
Pope John Paul II with Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel Mier Lau at a meeting at the Vatican in 1993

John Paul II with the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Rabbi Elio Toaff on the occassion of the Pope's historic visit to the great synogogue of Rome in 1986.

John Paul II in Israel
John Paul II is greeted by Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Israel Mier and Chief Sephardi Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron during the Pope's visit to Israel in March 2000.

John Paul II with Bob Dylan in 1997. Dylan had been invited to the Vatican to preform a short concert for the Pope.

Praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, 2000


The background image on this page is a Hebrew translation of the verse from Bob Dylan's song  It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding), from which the title of this blog is taken. Translation courtesy of Yoram Aharon of Hod-HaSharon's page--found via YudelLine-- which has many Dylan lyrics in Hebrew.