[Unofficial translation from wnp.pl]
John Paul II defined the scope of new relations between Jews and Catholics. We must continue his path of dialogue between nations, nations and religions in the years to come, ‘said Rabbi Abraham Skórka, co-leader of the Institute of Jewish-Christian Relations at the University of St. Joseph in Philadelphia.
In the information provided to PAP by the Jan Karski Society, in connection with the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Karol Wojtyła, a friend of Pope Francis, a theologian of Judaism and a spokesman for the dialogue of Jews and Christians, co-leading the Institute of Jewish-Christian Relations at the University of Saint Joseph in Philadelphia, rabbi prof. Abraham Skórka pointed out the contribution of Pope John Paul II in building relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people.
He recalled that a few months after his election, on March 12, 1979, he declared: “We recognize with utmost clarity that the path we should follow with the Jewish religious community is the path of fraternal dialogue and fruitful cooperation.” He also noted that John Paul II, as the first pope, visited the synagogue, “where he spoke of the Jews as beloved older brothers of the Church, perhaps thinking of an older brother in the parable of the prodigal son who was always with the Father.”
“He was also the first pope to visit Auschwitz and Yad Vashem, where he paid tribute to the millions of Jews who, deprived of everything, especially human dignity, were murdered during the Holocaust,” he added.
Rabbi Skorka recalled that the same pope led to the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel on December 30, 1993.
“Finally, he was the Polish pope, the first Holy Father who prayed both in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, asking God to forgive Christians for the suffering they inflicted on the Jews for centuries, and called the Church “to authentic brotherhood with the people of the Covenant”- he noted.
He admitted that “the extraordinary legacy of Karol Wojtyła may seem quite surprising if we recall that a large number of Jews left Poland, Russia and other Eastern European countries at the end of the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century because of the common plagues: hunger and anti-Semitism “.
He also noted that Karol Wojtyła was an eyewitness to the extermination of Jewish communities, losing everyone except one of his childhood friends in the Holocaust. He admitted that John Paul II in his youth also knew the hatred of the occupiers himself.
“Undoubtedly, his deeds were of great importance and undoubtedly determined the future of Catholic-Jewish relations. Without exaggeration, it can be said that he defined the scope of new relations between Jews and Catholics, which became possible thanks to the historical declaration of the Second Vatican Council Nostra aetate,” noted Rabbi Skorka.
He added that “the Pope has always tried to set a path in history that leads to a reality in which “people do not raise swords against each other or prepare for war”.
He emphasized that although during his pontificate there were moments of tension between Catholics and Jews, “nevertheless,” John Paul II’s contribution to the work of dialogue between Jews and Catholics remains much more consequential and long-lasting.”
“Pope John Paul II set us the challenge of building further on the foundations that he was able to lay courageously. We must continue his path of dialogue between peoples, nations and religions in the years to come, a path that leads to a human family in which everyone recognizes a brother or a sister in his neighbor, in which God is present in each of us and in all our actions “- summed up Rabbi Abraham Skórka.
Rabbi prof. Abraham Skórka is the son of Jewish emigrants from Poland, the rector of the theological school and the leader of the Jewish community in Buenos Aires, he has been friends with Cardinal Jorge M. Bergoglio, currently Pope Francis. He is also a laureate of the Jan Karski Eagle Award.
Jan Karski (aka Jan Kozielewski) was born in 1914 in Łódź. During World War II, as a courier for the Polish underground, he was one of the first to present to the Allies a report on the extermination of Jews in occupied Poland.