: interfaith advocate, sometime-supporter of Israel, and, soon, saint.
Born Karol Wojtyła in Wadowice, Poland, in 1920, John Paul II was the first pope to officially visit a synagogue. He is also credited with establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See, and offering a landmark condemnation of the Nazi genocide and call for Catholic repentance through his issuance of “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah.” On his visit to Israel in 2000, he said: The church “is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place.”
Not all agree that the former Pope’s legacy toward the Jews was so spotless, pointing to his meetings with Yasser Arafat and former Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, and his support of the canonization of Pius XII, who was criticized for inaction during the Holocaust.
But in two days, which happens to be Yom HaShoah, the Church will canonize him as a saint. When he was beatified in 2011, one scholar wrote that Jews should rejoice. But how? Though rabbis disagree on whether or not they may enter a church to celebrate, it would probably be okay to make Pope cookies.