No other pope in history has devoted so much time and attention to Jews,
who he described as “”our elder brother,”as the late John Paul II,
according to a statement by the Council of Christians and Jews. The
statement quoted a distinguished US Catholic scholar who observed
that when the papacy of John Paul II is evaluated by scholars, they will
conclude that perhaps his greatest achievement was his repairing
of relations with the Jewish people.
One of his earliest priorities on attaining the papacy was to continue the work of building a new relationship with the Jewish people begun by Pope John XXIII at Vatican Council II and carried on by Pope Paul VI.
His priorities were based on turning a new page in Catholic-Jewish relations, to expunging the teaching of contempt from Catholic doctrines and catechisms and to charting a new course of mutual understanding for the two denominations.
Perhaps the most dramatic evidence of Pope John Paul II's concern for the Jewish people, the statement continued, came in 2000 when he became the first pontiff to visit Israel where he paid homage to the victims of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem and prayed at the Western Wall. The note he inserted in the Wall is reported to have said: “”God of our fathers, You chose Abraham and his descendants to bring Your name to the nations. We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who, in he course of history, have caused these children of Yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the covenant.””
The Council mourns with its Catholic brothers and sisters the loss of John Paul II and looks forward to the work of interfaith reconciliation so vigorously advanced by the late pontiff continuing under the aegis of his successor.
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