VARIOUS: Jewish and Islamic leaders reflect on Pope John Paul II's influence over inter-religous relations
- Title: VARIOUS: Jewish and Islamic leaders reflect on Pope John Paul II's influence over inter-religous relations
- Date: 27th April 2011
- Summary: AMMAN, JORDAN (FILE - MARCH 2000) (ORGINALLY 4:3) (REUTERS) VARIOUS POPE JOHN PAUL IN POPEMOBILE DRIVING NEXT TO CROWDS OF PEOPLE
- Reuters ID: LVA1TAN30PCBAVH5JDON0FC8Q5OK
- Location: Syrian Arab Republic, Jerusalem, Italy, Jordan
- Country: Syrian Arab Republic Jerusalem Jerusalem Italy Jordan
- Duration: 00:00:29
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: Religion
- Story Text: On May 1 the beatification ceremony will take place which will bring Pope John Paul II one step away from sainthood. The ceremony is expected to be one of the biggest events in Rome since the pontiff died in 2005.
Looking back over his pontificate one of the most abiding pictures of Pope John Paul 11 was the image of him praying next to the Western Wall in Jerusalem in March 21, 2000.
His historical five-day visit to the Holy Land, which the pontiff described as a personal spiritual visit, helped turn the page in Catholic-Jewish relations.
"The role of John Paul 11 was quite revolutionary due to his personal history and also his personal way of talking to the people, touching the heart with the gestures, more than words," recalled the Chief Rabbi in Rome, Riccardo di Segni.
"He was able to manage the media and under his pontificate every thing was impressive, attracting millions. Even moving millions of people from one place to another," de Segni said referring to the numbers of people who would travel to see the pope on many of his foreign visits.
"This personality that showed a positive impact towards the Jewish people signed an important point in the history of the relations," di Segni said.
One important gesture marking a change in Jewish-Catholic relations was the visit by Pope John Paul to the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. The speech the pontiff made next to the monument, where he said he was deeply saddened by acts of anti-semitism to Jews by Christians, was seen as the climax of efforts to improve relations between the two religions.
Leaders of the Islamic faith also have warm memories of Pope John Paul, viewing him as a great statesman. The pontiff's ability to try and communicate with all people, even in frail health, did not fail to touch the hearts of many muslims.
"He was very popular in Islam indeed, and you remember when finally he died and the last days of his illness, his state of health, I mean agony, was followed with great compassion by the Islamic world," said Mario Scialoja a leading Islamic figure in Italy and former Italian ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
"He was very popular indeed, he made a great job for dialogue, inter-religious dialogue in general and inter-religious dialogue with Islam in particular," Scialoja said.
Pope John Paul 11 was the first pope to enter a mosque, visiting the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus in 2001. The visit marked a turning point in relations between Islam and the Catholic church.
"Well his personality was a great help indeed, he was speaking always with the right tone, always smiling. He was a great man of communication indeed, he had a gift, a natural gift," Scialoja said fondly.
"He attracted the attention and the sympathy of people who were listening to him. It was impossible to listen to him and not to be in agreement with what he said. He was a great communicator," Sicaloja said.
Pope John Paul's many visits all over the world allowed him to use his gift as a communicator in many different places. His great strides in improving relations with all religions still endures today and will be one of Pope John Paul's greatest legacies.
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