Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Friday paid a warm tribute to the late Pope, John Paul II, on what would have been his 100th birthday.
In a tweet, the ministry described the late pontiff as “a true friend of the Jewish people & the State of Israel, during whose pontificate the Holy See established diplomatic relations with the State of Israel.”
John Paul II — born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in the Polish village of Wadowice on May 18, 1920 — revolutionized the Catholic Church’s relationship with Judaism and the Jewish people during his time as pope from 1978 until his death in 2005. And as a young archbishop in 1965, he was among the signatories of the Vatican’s historic “Nostra Aetate” declaration which repudiated centuries of Catholic antisemitism.
In 1979, on his first return to Poland as pope, John Paul II knelt before the memorial to Holocaust victims at Auschwitz, saying: “I couldn’t not come here.” In 1986, he became the first pope to visit the Great Synagogue of Rome. Under his leadership, the Vatican established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1993. In 1998, the Vatican issued the document “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah.”
In 2000, John Paul II became the first pope to visit Israel, paying a historic visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Observing the custom of placing a handwritten note into a crevice in the wall, the pope wrote: “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 the 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.”
This week we mark the centenary of the birth of Saint Pope John Paul II, a true friend of the Jewish people & the State of Israel, during whose pontificate the Holy See established diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. We also remember his historic visit to in 2000. pic.twitter.com/cItF58ERBL
— Israel Foreign Ministry (@IsraelMFA) May 22, 2020