April 2, 2005 - New York - The American Jewish Committee profoundly mourns the passing of Pope John Paul II. He was the central figure of our times in the remarkable transformation in Catholic-Jewish relations in particular, and Christian-Jewish relations, in general.
Pope John Paul II will be remembered throughout the world for his unparalleled religious leadership, his historic role in the collapse of communism, and as a universal voice of conscience in troubled times. The Jewish community also will remember him with particular affection — no Pope had ever given the degree of attention to Jewish communities worldwide or received Jewish leadership at the Vatican so readily and so extensively as did John Paul II.
AJC, the leading international Jewish organization advancing interreligious understanding worldwide for more than half a century, had the privilege of engaging the Pope directly on countless occasions at the Vatican, and during his papacy, AJC and Catholic partners across the U.S. deepened relations for the common good.
Pope John Paul II moved the initial revolution in Catholic-Jewish relations set in motion by the much admired Pope John XXIII at the Second Vatican Council into high gear. He was the first Pope ever to visit a synagogue; to honor the memory of the victims of the Shoah (Holocaust) with a memorial concert in the Vatican; to establish full relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel; and to make an official visit to the State of Israel. His forceful condemnations of anti-Semitism as a sin against God and man were highlighted by the liturgy of repentance that he initiated on the eve of the millennium, asking forgiveness for sins committed by Christians against Jews down the ages — a text that he subsequently personally placed at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
In his historic role in advancing dialogue between religions throughout the world, his contribution to Christian-Jewish reconciliation crowns his achievements. His memory will remain as a great blessing.
Contact: Kenneth Bandler (212) 891-6771 PR@ajc.org
Lisa Fingeret Roth (212) 891-1385 firstname.lastname@example.org