O’Connor Backs Forest For Pope


As ailing 80-year-old New York Archbishop John Cardinal O’Connor continues to battle the effects of cancer radiation treatment, he can still "see" the trees: and the forest.

O’Connor continued his unprecedented record of improving Christian-Jewish relations with his support of a project to plant a forest in Israel honoring Pope John Paul II. The project to plant 25,000 trees in Nazareth is being sponsored by the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding of Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, along with the Jewish National Fund.

It will honor the ailing 80-year-old Polish born pope who "has done more for Jewish-Christian relations than anyone or anything else in the last 2,000 years," said Rabbi Joseph Ehrenkranz, the center’s executive director. The pope will visit Israel in two weeks. It will mark the first papal trip to the Holy Land since Pope Paul VI visited Jerusalem in 1964: before Israel took control of the entire city following the 1967 Six-Day War.

John Paul II "has done more than any other pope in recounting the debt Christianity owes the Jewish people," the cardinal said in the center’s brochure.

The forest is planned for a hill that overlooks the Church of Annunciation and borders Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities. The cost of planting a tree in the Papal Forest is $36. The center hopes to plant 1 million throughout Israel. Proceeds will promote the center and the Ratisbonne Pontifical Institute in Jerusalem, where Judaism is taught to Christians.

Rabbi Ehrenkranz said the center will bolster its affiliation with the institute by establishing academic chairs in religious studies and theology at both institutions.

For more information about the Papal Forest contact the center at (203) 365-7591 or go to its Web site www.ccju.org.