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American Jews Mourn Death of Pope John Xxiii; Leaders Express Grief

June 4, 1963
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

American Jewry joined the Catholic world today in mourning the death of Pope John XXIII who died this afternoon at the age of 81. Major American Jewish organizations issued statements expressing grief and emphasizing that Pope John was one of the warmest friends the Jews ever had in the Vatican.

Leading in tributes to Pope John was the Synagogue Council of America, the national coordinating body representing the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbinical and congregational organizations. Represented by the Synagogue Council are: the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Rabbinical Council of America, Rabbinical Assembly, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, and United Synagogue of America. The statement issued by the Synagogue Council through its president Rabbi Julius Mark, reads:

“Men of good will everywhere, those who cherish the highest ideals of human freedom and dignity under God, mourn the death of a great spiritual leader, Pope John XXIII. His life and noble works will long endure as an inspiration for man’s immortal quest for peace and justice. His deep concern for all who suffer injustice and pain, his acts of generosity, his dedication to charity and his efforts in bringing peoples of the world closer together, will long be remembered by men, women, and children of all faiths.

“In behalf of the Jewish religious community of the United States, I wish to express our profound sadness at the death of Pope John. To the Catholic community of this country and throughout the world, the Synagogue Council of America extends its sincerest condolences.” Rabbi Mark said that this statement has been sent to Catholic authorities in the Vatican and in this country.


The American Jewish Committee cabled the following message to the Papal Secretary of State: “The American Jewish Committee joins in the universal mourning over the death of Pope John XXIII. In the brief five years of his Papacy he has given extraordinary personal leadership that has significantly transformed an improved human relationships in such an historic way that this may well constitute his greatest living monument.

“His great personal humanity, his overwhelming charity and his love for the human person have endeared him and have won the universal respect of men of all races, religions and points of view. It is obvious from the anxiety that men everywhere have felt during his recent illness that he was regarded as a friend and leader by many who are outside his own religious tradition. Jewish history will reward Pope John as ‘one of the righteous among the nations of the earth who earned a place in the world to come.’

“The American Jewish Committee is persuaded that Pope John’s brilliant and greatly needed spirit of humanity and fraternity that made such a difference in the world of public affairs will continue to radiate in the relationships between man and his fellows for many years to come. May his memory continue to be a blessing.”

The American Jewish Congress issued the following statement: “The American Jewish Congress extends to the college of cardinals and to Roman Catholics throughout the world its deepest sympathy upon the death of Pope John XXIII.

“Among his many contributions to mankind, the Pontiff will be remembered wherever men of good will gather for his earnest and effective efforts in the wartime rescue of victims of Nazi persecution, including thousands of Jewish men, women and children, for the great encyclicals in which he charted a path by which men of all faiths and all nations could live in peace and dignity and enjoy the blessings of liberty and justice, and for the human qualities of kindliness and understanding which radiated from him.

“The Catholic church has lost its supreme leader, the Jewish people have lost a warm and trusted friend, the world has lost a wise and good man.”

B’nai B’rith president Label A. Katz cabled to the Apostolic Secretary of State at the Vatican the “profound sorrow” of his organization, and added; “The world has lost a wise and vigorous spokesman for human goodness. His spiritual and moral leadership transcended distinctions of religious faith and he will be remembered by the non-Catholic community for his compassionate regard for the dignity and freedoms of man and for his positive efforts to inspire peace and social justice among nations. The Jewish community shall also remember him as a sympathetic friend who expressed that friendship in great deeds of humanitarianism and loving kindness.

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