Italian Jewish Leader Proposes Pope for Award

Would Give Him «Righteous Among the Nations» Medal

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ROME, SEPT. 24, 2003 ( A leader of the Italian Jewish community proposed that the «Righteous Among the Nations» medal be conferred on John Paul II.

Emmanuelle Pacifici, president of the Yad Vashem Association in Italy, made the proposal today when he addressed a conference on the contribution of religious orders and congregations to the rescue of Jews during World War II.

«When John Paul II was an aspirant to the priesthood in 1942, he was introduced to a 2-year-old Jewish orphan boy whom he entrusted to a peasant married couple,» Pacifici said. «At the end of the war, they brought the child back to him safe and sound, and asked that he baptize him.»

«He who would become Pope, rejected the proposal, saying: ‘He is a child and he must continue to be a Jew.’ Later I learned that he did everything possible to entrust him to relatives who had gone to the United States. If I knew this child’s name, I would give the Pope the medal of the Righteous.»

Yad Vashem honors as «Righteous Among the Nations» those non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust, often at great personal risk.

Offering his own life testimony, Pacifici said that if he survived the Nazi persecutions of the war it was thanks «to the great contribution of the religious to the rescue of Jews, not only in Rome, but everywhere.»

«Many of my brothers in religion have never given thanks for this help. Those who helped us, did so by risking their lives,» he added.

«I owe my life to the Franciscan Sisters of Santa Maria in Settignano, near Florence, where I was welcomed and treated as a son,» Pacifici recalled. «One of the religious prayed with me the ‘Shema Israel.’ While I am alive I shall talk about the Shoah [Holocaust] so that it will not be forgotten.»

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