JERUSALEM, March 16 (JTA) — The Anti-Defamation League is launching a massive advertising campaign to explain the pope to Israelis.
The campaign will focus on the historic importance of Pope John Paul II’s upcoming pilgrimage to the Holy Land and his views on Christian-Jewish reconciliation.
“We believe that the vast majority of Israelis simply do not have any idea as to what this pope stands for,” said Laura Kam Issacharoff, spokeswoman for the ADL’s Israel office. The campaign, she added, is intended as an “educational service” for Israel.
It was expected to include double-page spreads in all of Israel’s leading newspapers on Monday, the day before the pope arrives for his six-day tour.
The ads present a list of 19 powerful statements made by the pope since 1979, just after his ascension to the papacy, and through this week, when he made a sweeping request for forgiveness for Christian wrongdoing throughout history in a dramatic ceremony in the Vatican.
Israelis will be exposed to the pope’s comments calling for dialogue with the Jewish community, expressing support for a secure Jewish homeland in Israel, renouncing anti-Semitism and condemning the Holocaust.
These include a statement from 1989 that described the Holocaust as “the planned barbarism which was unleashed against the Jewish people” that will “remain forever a shame for humanity.”
Another papal statement from November 1990 says, “For Christians, the heavy burden of guilt for the murder of the Jewish people must be an enduring call for repentance.”
Many Jewish leaders recognize the dramatic changes in the church’s attitude towards Jews. But during the pope’s visit, all eyes will be focused on his speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.
Some Jewish leaders have said they hope the pope may issue a more specific apology for church silence during the Holocaust, and specifically for the behavior of Pius XII, the wartime pope who many Jews believe remained silent about Nazi atrocities.
A new opinion poll released by Bar-Ilan University showed that 53 percent of Israelis view the pope’s visit positively. But while 55 percent said the church has changed its attitude favorably, a majority said they believe the Roman Catholic Church’s attitude towards Jews and the State of Israel is either ambiguous or negative.