Saturday, April 02, 2005

This Pope Was The Real Deal

I've been thinking a lot about the Pope. His death will have a profound effect on me, and I'm not Catholic, I'm Jewish

It goes without saying that Catholics everywhere will mourn the passing of John Paul II. He is an icon of their faith and a beloved spiritual leader. The rest of us -especially Jews- can mourn his death for another reason: he has been a valuable ally.

That wasn't always the case with Popes. Historically, from the Inquisition to the Third Reich to modern times, the Vatican has racked up a deplorable record of anti-Semitism. It wasn't always the case with Poles either. Poland has long struggled with an anti-Semitic national consciousness. It's no accident Hitler chose Poland as the locale for most of the Nazi death camps. He knew he'd meet little resistance to atrocities against Jews from a people steeped in an ages-old history of fear and hatred of them

But this Pope was different, and one senses that had an impact. As a Pole and as leader of the Church, he ordered his priorities on a human and a humane scale. He had an agenda for Humanity that crossed religious and national boundaries. And he led both by example and by design. He may have been a humble man, but his goals were lofty, and global.

This Pope was first and foremost the Father of Catholicism, but he saw that as an opportunity, not a limitation. He reached out to all of us, all faiths and countries, more than any Pope in history. Was he flawed, did he make some grevious mistakes? Certainly. But we can still applaud his efforts. He was, after all, a man, not a saint, a hard reality he clearly understood. And one that too many of his predecessors seemed to deny.

There's something else about him that has always struck a positive chord with me. While the Vatican is traditionally a hotbed of politics where personal agendas reign Supreme, he seemed genuinely above the fray. He took his obligations to a Higher Power seriously. He was a True Believer, a humanist, an optimist and a peace maker. You have to respect him for that, no matter your own belief system, or lack of one

He took care of his own, but he didn't forget the rest of us. And we will not soon forget him.

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