Jews cannot comment on canonization. We use the word “cannot” intentionally. The concept of canonization is profoundly alien to Judaism. All we can say is that to the extent that canonization enshrines the ideas of these two popes on the Jewish people, and on the history of Jewish-Catholic relations, it is all to the good. And, of course,we can comment on the two popes themselves: Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.
The first, a sweet man of instinctive love across religious lines, lived through the Holocaust and saw the impact of the “deicide” charge on the lives of millions of innocents. Pope John XXIII’s deep humanity told him that something drastic must change in the Church. It could not possibly stand for, or abet, whether intentionally or unintentionally, a Holocaust. And act he did, setting in motion a radical revision of all aspects of Catholic theology that demeaned Jews or Judaism. He died too early to see the fruits of his labors.
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No doubt, major fruits included the two popes who followed him: John Paul I, who lived but a short time, yet whose gentleness made such an impression on his successor that he took the name, John Paul II. John Paul II was born and raised in Poland —this itself set him apart from his Italian predecessors. He more than lived through the Holocaust. He grew up among and befriended Jews.
As pope, he took the abstract theological changes initiated by Pope John XXIII and concretized them. He visited a synagogue (a first for a pope in almost 2,000 years). He visited Israel. He established diplomatic relations with Israel. He spoke of Jews as his “elder brothers in faith.” He embraced the Jewish people.
We salute the Church’s efforts to advance these ideals.
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