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A Pilgrimage That Changed Everything



Pope John Paul II’s March 20-26, 2000, pilgrimage to Jordan and Israel has forever changed the Catholic Church’s relations with Muslims and Jews. He met Israel’s two chief rabbis, the major Muslim leaders, the president and prime minister of Israel and the leaders of the Palestinian Authority.

At Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem (March 23), the pope said, “[T]here are no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Shoah....As bishop of Rome and successor of the Apostle Peter, I assure the Jewish people that the Catholic Church, motivated by the Gospel laws of truth and love and by no political considerations, is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place.” The pope met with Holocaust survivors, some of whom he had known from Poland.

At the Old City’s Western Wall, the pope prayed and placed a prayer in one of the crevices. That text is on permanent exhibit at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.

At his general audience on March 29, the pope described this pilgrimage as “a return, in a sense, to the origins, to the roots of our faith and of the Church.” After recalling the various places he visited and the people whom he met, the pope said, “...[A]s I express my gratitude to the Lord for this unforgettable experience, I ask him with humble trust to draw from it abundant fruits for the good of the Church and of humanity.”

Aharon Lopez, Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See, described the trip as successful “beyond all expectations” and said that it marked a high point in Catholic-Jewish dialogue. According to the ambassador, the pope’s action of placing a prayer for peace at the Western Wall sealed the progress made in this dialogue over the years and took it to a new level.

Eugene Fisher said that because of this prayer, “Jewish-Christian relations will never be the same. The pope has seized the opportunity not just of a lifetime but of the millennium. The world will be forever better for it.”


Back to Recognizing Our Common Roots: Catholic-Jewish Relations Today


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