Because Karol Joseph Wojtyla was Polish-born, his election as pope on Oct. 16, 1978, was met with widespread skepticism within the Jewish community. There was concern that the new pope would reflect the traditional anti-Semitism that marked much of Jewish history in Poland. But John Paul II proved the skeptics wrong. His extraordinary contributions to building mutual respect and understanding between Catholics and Jews are historic in nature, and he will be remembered as the best pope the Jews ever had.
Rabbi James Rudin
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