The Pope Goes to Jerusalem by Kevin Adams


The Pope was in Jerusalem. Standing at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial, surrounded by survivors of the Shoah he had been asked to speak. What would he say? What does anyone say at a time like that? Especially, what could a Christian leader say to those tortured and abused by representatives of a self proclaimed and historic “Christian nation?”  John Paul II began with time tested words, “I have become like a broken vessel. I hear the whispering of many–terror on every side!–as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’”  His words were borrowed, taken from Psalm 31. He continued, describing his own memories of life in Poland during Nazi occupation: “I remember my Jewish friends and neighbors, some of whom perished, while others survived.”  That day, before the poignant memorial, his words were few. It was not the time for extended oratory. Instead, he voiced regret, for himself and his followers. And he called on Christians and Jews to take a renewed path toward mutual respect.  Midway through his talk John Paul came back to Psalm 31, reading, “I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God’” (v. 14). Though this psalm vividly proclaims the human capacity of evil, he said, evil “will not have the last word.”  He continued, the “heart-rending laments of so many. Men, women and children cry out to us from the depths of the horror that they knew.” Then he followed his words with action, moving to embrace and honor elderly survivors, one of whom had been carried to safety by a young Catholic man, Karol Wojtyla, the man now called Pope John Paul II.

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