Pope Meets Canadian Jewish Leaders

Pope John Paul II, the first Pope to visit Canada, met around midnight last night for 10 minutes with a delegation of 10 Jewish leaders who urged him to have the Vatican extend official recognition to Israel.

The Pope’s response to this and other statements by the Jewish leaders, headed by Alan Rose, executive vice president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, was not disclosed on an understanding that the Pope’s comments would not be made public by the delegation.

Also represented by the delegation were the Allied Jewish Community Services of Montreal and the Canada-Israel Committee. The meeting took place at the Holy Mary Queen of the World Cathedral here.

The appeal for Vatican recognition, withheld from Israel since its re-birth, was made in a statement for the delegation, read to the Pope by Rose.

A source explained that the unusual timing of the meeting was due to a mixup in train schedules which brought the Jewish leaders to the Cathedral two hours before the scheduled meeting time, and the Pope’s hectic 18 hours of visits to various Catholic shrines in the Quebec province.

THE MESSAGE TO THE POPE

In the delegation’s message, the Pope was told that the Jewish group greeted him “as one who lived through the terrible years of Nazi occupation of Poland” and “thus, you have a special and indeed unique understanding of the Holocaust.”

The statement added that “this has been evident on many occasions and during your visit to Auschwitz to honor the memory of innocent Jewish victims of genocide and those who resisted evil, many of whom went to their death.

“We yearn for the day when the spirit which pervades Catholic-Jewish relations will enable the Holy See to recognize the State of Israel. Such an act would be of profound universal significance.”

Arrangements for the meeting of Canadian Jews with the Pope were made by Archbishop Gregoire of Montreal. The source said the meeting was arranged in accordance with the Pope’s practice of seeking to meet with representatives of the Jewish community of any major city the much-traveled pontiff visits.

Rose and Rabbi Robert Steinberg, CJC director of national religious affairs, in radio interviews today broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Service, stressed the “warm and cordial” attitudes the Pope expressed to them and commented on the pontiff’s positive attitudes toward Jews and Judaism.

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