Pope John Paul II Reaffirms Catholic-Jewish Bonds In Vatican Meeting With ADL Leaders
New York, NY, December 17, 2004 … Pope John Paul II greeted a delegation from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to the Vatican with a prayer for an end to racism and assurances that the "close bonds of friendship" between Catholics and Jews would continue.
"The Catholic Church and the Jewish people continue to enjoy close bonds of friendship," Pope John Paul told the ADL delegation led by Barbara B. Balser, National Chair and Abraham H. Foxman, National Director. Also in attendance was Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, Director of Interfaith Affairs.
In his remarks, the Pope welcomed ADL to the Vatican and offered a prayer for an end to racism: "It is my fervent prayer that men and women will work together to eradicate all forms of racism in order to build a society that promotes truth, justice, love and peace. Upon all of you I invoke the divine gifts of strength and joy. Shalom!"
The Vatican visit followed an intensive two-day conference on anti-Semitism in Rome sponsored by ADL, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Italian newspaper, Il Foglio.
The following is the full text of the remarks by Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, to Pope John Paul II at the Vatican:
I am honored once again to have the pleasure and privilege of an audience with you. It is deeply personal and touching, for it is an integral part of my own life story. I owe my life to a Catholic woman who risked her own to save me from the fate that befell one and a half million other Jewish children at the murderous hands of the Nazis. When my parents were taken to concentration camps, they left their infant son and only child, me, with my nanny. She changed my name. She falsified documents. With the collusion of a Polish priest, she baptized me. Miraculously, both parents survived and returned for me. I am alive because of Bronislawa Kurpi's compassion and humanity and courage.
The Catholic Church gave me life through that brave woman and the brave priest who helped her deceive and defy those who would have destroyed every Jew on earth. I ask, your holiness, that you bless the soul of Bronislawa Kurpi who so magnificently lived the tenets of her Catholic faith.
God, in his infinite mercy and wisdom, spared me. I feel compelled to devote that life to the service of my people and to build bridges between my people and our brethren in God's work.
Your Holiness, your moral inspiration and leadership for your 26 years in the shoes of the Fisherman have been a shining light to the world.
You have defended the Jewish people as a priest in your native Poland and for all the years of your Pontificate. You have denounced anti-Semitism as a "sin against God and humanity." You have paid homage to the victims of the Holocaust here in the Vatican and at Yad Vashem in Israel.
Your pilgrimage to the great synagogue of Rome was the first by a Pope since the time of Peter, and your address there breached centuries of pain and mistrust. We will never forget your memorable words, "the Church of Christ discovers her bond with Judaism by searching into her own mystery. The Jewish religion is not extrinsic to us, but in a certain way is intrinsic to our own religion. With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion."
Ten years ago, you established relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel, acknowledging its centrality in Jewish life and faith. Your prayer of mourning at Babi Yar demonstrated your profound commitment to reconciliation and to remembering the horrors of the Holocaust. You have called on the worldwide Catholic community to reckon with its past and to look toward a more meaningful understanding of Judaism and the Jewish people in God's design. You have recognized our common spiritual patrimony…the special relationship between Christianity and the Jewish people…a central theme of Nostra Aetate and a major theme of your own reflections on that historic document.
In your exceptional writings and pronouncements, you have reflected your understanding of Judaism as a living heritage, of the permanent validity of God's covenant with the Jewish people and of the abhorrent sin that is anti-Semitism. And just this past summer, our two communities – Jewish and Catholic – stated in the final communiqué of the 18th meeting of the Catholic Jewish Liaison Committee: "We draw encouragement from the fruits of our collective strivings which include the recognition of the unique and unbroken covenantal relationship between God and the Jewish people and the total rejection of anti-Semitism in all its forms, including anti-Zionism as a more recent manifestation of anti-Semitism."
That profound evil has become a global malignancy, infecting the entire world. We need more leaders like you to step forward, to raise their voices in condemnation and to emulate your exercise of true moral leadership.
The Anti-Defamation League has worked with the Roman Catholic Church for more than half a century and with other faith communities to find ways to grow together even if we cannot be theologically together. When men and women of courage who live, as my nanny did, the tenets of their faith speak out and act out against injustice and intolerance, lives are saved.
Catholics and Jews are truly together in history for the first time, as people of God, looking to remember and to transcend, memories of a profoundly painful past and to see each other as part of the Covenant of God. The focus in these formative years of the 21st century is on a meeting of hearts and a prophetic encounter of faith as part of God's design. For two millennia we have journeyed apart. We have worked to break down the ancient barriers of bigotry. We now journey together into a new era of mutual spiritual acceptance and cooperation. I pray our common God will bless our efforts and strengthen our understanding of each other. Your Holiness, we salute your own great and leading role on this journey with our deepest admiration and affection.
As you reminded us on your trip to Rome's synagogue – yes! We are brothers!
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.