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October 2, 2013 8:43 am

Newly Canonized Popes John Paul II, John XXIII Praised for Condemning Anti-Semitism

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Pope John Paul II at the old Yankee Stadium, New York City, in October 1979. Photo: Thomas J. O'Halloran. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) welcomed the Vatican’s announcement of the canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII, citing their groundbreaking work in denouncing anti-Semitism and building positive Jewish-Catholic relations.

“For us in the Jewish community, Popes John Paul II and John XXIII have already been saints for a long time. They are towering men whose visionary leadership and groundbreaking reforms transformed Jewish-Catholic relations and reversed two thousand painful years of church-based anti-Semitism,” said Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman, who met Pope John Paul II on several occasions, in a statement.

Pope John Paul II was the first pope to visit the Great Synagogue of Rome since Saint Peter and also denounced anti-Semitism as a “sin against God and humanity.” John Paul II formally established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1993 and made a historic visit to Israel in 2000.

Pope John XXIII is notable for being the driving force behind the Second Vatican Council, including its landmark Nostra Aetate, which ended centuries of anti-Semitic policies within the Catholic Church and paved the way for improved Catholic-Jewish relations.

Since becoming pontiff in March, Pope Francis has made Jewish-Christian relations a priority, continuing the legacy of his predecessors. Recently, Pope Francis praised the Jewish people for “keeping their faith in God” despite centuries of persecution, and also declared in June that a true Christian “cannot be anti-Semitic.”

Pope Francis has also met several times with Jewish leaders and has announced tentative plans to visit Israel next year.

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