Address of President of American Jewish Committee to the Pope

“You Have Truly Been a Blessing”

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 5, 2004 ( Here is the address of Harold Tanner, president of the American Jewish Committee, to John Paul II, during an audience the Pope granted to members of this institution today in the Vatican.

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Your Holiness,

We are deeply honored to be received here by you today.

We know that, we do not need to introduce you to the American Jewish Committee. Official delegations of our organization’s leadership have been privileged to have been received by you on four different occasions during your Pontificate and our respective Directors of Interreligious Affairs have been privileged to meet with you in many other contexts. This has above all reflected your remarkable good will and friendship towards the Jewish community at large and I believe it has also reflected your appreciation of the AJC’s commitment to and unique record in the field of Christian-Jewish relations.

Our purpose today is to express our profound gratitude and admiration for your exceptional personal contribution to this process, during the more than quarter of a century of your Pontificate. Your visit to the synagogue in this city in 1986 will go down in history as an event of enormous impact and significance. In the same way your visit to Israel in the year 2000 after the establishment of full relations between the Holy See and the Jewish State, was a most powerful testimony of the genuine transformation of the Church’s relationship with the Jewish People. We are of course profoundly appreciative of your manifold statements on the unique relationship between our two Faiths and your description of the Jewish people as the Church’s dearly beloved elder of the unbroken and eternal Covenant.

You have also been particularly forthright in condemning all prejudice and bigotry especially anti-Semitism. We know that this is not coincidental to your own persona, background and experience and you have emphasized that we must work devotedly to ensure that the memory of the Shoah and its implications for humanity at large, are studied and taught to future generations. But because we bear the wounds of this particular experience, we are of course especially perturbed these days by the present wave of anti-Semitic expression and violence. We therefore are particularly grateful to you for the categorical statements of the Holy See condemning this perversity.

We also recall the remarkable concert you held to commemorate the Shoah and notably you have just hosted a concert expressing the hope and goal of reconciliation among the three monotheistic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Naturally we deeply share that aspiration, but know that there is a long road ahead before we will come close to that goal.

In this regard we are especially horrified by the way religion has been abused in the Middle East and around the world, to justify and even glorify the killing of innocents. We are grateful for your powerful statements condemning violence in the name of religion, and we pray that the world at large will listen and recognize the truth of your words.

Your Holiness, we also take this opportunity to thank you for your Church in the United States. I believe it true to say that no Jewish community at any time and in any place has enjoyed the degree of warm friendship and collegial cooperation that we have enjoyed with the Catholic Church in America. We know that this is due in no small regard to your own courageous leadership and we profoundly thank you for it. We pray that the Almighty will give you the strength to continue in this leadership and that your Church around the world will continue to advance along the path that you have forged, following your example in the years ahead.

As you yourself have stated regarding the Divine injunction to Abraham to be a blessing in the world — this is our common charge. But in order to achieve it, we must first be a blessing to each other.

You, Your Holiness, have truly been a blessing to the Jewish community — and for this we are truly grateful.

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