Pope John Paul II helped to make mankind better

Rabbi Alfredo Winter

The entire world is united by a profound sense of loss and sorrow at the passing of His Holiness Pope John Paul II, whom history shall surely remember as one of the most admirable leaders to grace the face of this earth. His humanism, unlimited sense of compassion and concern for the dignity and inalienable rights of his fellow human beings, regardless of creed, race or color of skin, led him in word and deed to honor the image of God, which he, as few have, appreciated in each and every one of them. Jewish tradition emphasizes that it is on the merits of the "36 Righteous of the World," whose identities, as of yet, remain unknown, that mankind will be redeemed. It also advises that one of those 36 might be no other than a neighbor, to emphasize that we are all endowed with the potential to help the world move closer to redemption. While their identities remain shrouded in mystery, nothing stops one from pointing to those who, by virtue of their unshakable determination, tireless endeavors and innumerable accomplishments in helping to achieve the betterment of the human race, should belong to that morally and spiritually inspiring "elite." One need only admiringly look at Pope John Paul II's commitment to build bridges with other faiths and to his fight to preserve the freedom and dignity of all world citizens to rightfully place him among those selected few. His guiding role in strengthening the nature of ties between Catholics and Jews, whom he lovingly referred to as "our dearly beloved, elder brothers," has greatly resonated with world Jewry. So have his often stated condemnation of anti-Semitism as a sin against God and humanity, and his profound pain when referring to the Shoah (Holocaust), and the unspeakable horror inflicted on six million Jews -- many among them the friends of his youth -- which truly and eloquently bespoke his deep spiritual kinship with the people from whom Jesus came. To this giant of a man we say: Go thou in peace, and, as you embark on your eternal journey, may these words of the Prophet Isaiah (58:8) be fulfilled, "Thy righteousness will go before thee, God's glory backing thee." Rabbi Alfredo Winter is a member of Vineland Ministerium, and is the spiritual leader of Vineland's Beth Israel Congregation, a member organization of Jewish Federation of Cumberland County. Originally published April 7, 2005
The Daily Journal