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Pope reaches out to the Jews during whirlwind visit to St. Louis

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NEW YORK, Jan. 27 (JTA) — A 90-year-old St. Louis rabbi was slated to read a biblical passage from the book of Isaiah at the prayer service of Pope John Paul II during his visit to Missouri this week. The participation of Rabbi Robert Jacobs, executive vice president of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association, was seen as the latest effort by the pope to reach out to the Jews. In addition, a Holocaust survivor from Poland was invited as a guest to the Wednesday afternoon service. Anna Gruber, who is active with the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center, had said she hoped to greet the pope in her native Polish. The pope has taken many steps to improve relations with the Jews during his tenure, including establishing diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Israel, visiting Rome’s historic synagogue and holding a concert for Holocaust victims. Although the pope has often spoken about anti-Semitism and Jewish suffering during the Holocaust, a long-awaited Vatican document on the Holocaust issued last year drew some Jewish criticism for not going far enough in acknowledging the role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust.

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