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The Chosen Ones

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A minyan of Jewish representatives has been chosen to attend an historic meeting with Pope John Paul II and high-ranking Vatican officials next week, according to a spokesman for the delegation.

Representatives of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), the organization of five Jewish groups which received the Vatican’s invitation, would not release the Vatican’s invitation, would not release the names of the delegates until Monday. IJCIC scheduled another meeting Monday night to finalize the list of those who will meet with the Pope.

But representatives of the organizations involved said members of IJCIC and several other organizations met repeatedly last week to debate who would meet the Pope at his summer home in Castel Gandolfo outside Rome. The Vatican had requested that no more than five Jewish officials attend the meeting with the Pope scheduled for September 1.

Gunther Lawrence, the spokesman for the delegation who will attend the Vatican meetings as press officer, said the group hoped that more than five would be admitted to the session with the Pope.

The nine other Jewish officials set to attend the meeting include: Mordechai Waxman, chairman of IJCIC, who will lead the delegation; Rabbi Gilbert Klaperman, Synagogue Council of America (SCA) president; Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, American Jewish Committee director of international relations; Seymour Reich, president, B’nai B’rith International; Rabbi Leon Klenicki, director of interfaith affairs, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith; Gerhart Riegner, co-chairman of the World Jewish Congress governing board; Rabbi Henry Siegman, executive director, American Jewish Congress; Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president, Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC); and Dr. Geofrey Wigoder of the Israel Interfaith Committee.

All the delegates are affiliated with one of the five IJCIC member organizations which include: Synagogue Council of America, World Jewish Congress, B’nai B’rith International, Israel Interfaith Committee and American Jewish Committee.


The meeting in Rome is one of several signs of a thaw in Vatican-Jewish relations, which soured after the Pope granted an audience to accused Nazi war criminal and Austrian President Kurt Waldheim last June. Last week, Catholic American officials released a letter from the Pope to the president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops highly sympathetic to Jewish suffering in the Holocaust and conciliatory in its tone on Catholic-Jewish relations.

Pending the outcome of the Rome meeting, representatives of major Jewish organizations may meet the Pope in a ceremonial meeting in Miami Sept. 11 during his 10-day visit to the U.S.

Elie Wiesel, Nobel laureate, announced last week that he will postpone a visit to the Vatican until after the Pope’s meeting with Jewish leaders because he did not want to interfere with their mission. Wiesel said he received his invitation to meet the Pope before the Vatican invited the IJCIC members but decided to postpone his meeting on request from some Jewish officials to do so.

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