In 2006, the Museum presented the exhibition A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People. Curated by Xavier University, the Hillel Jewish Student Center of Cincinnati, and the Shtetl Foundation, the exhibition chronicles the late pontiff’s lifelong relationship with the Jewish people and includes a replica of the Western Wall where visitors can leave prayers in the cracks of the wall with the promise that they will be delivered to the actual Wall in Jerusalem someday.
While on display at MJH, the Museum displayed the note left by Pope John Paul II at the Western Wall in Jerusalem during his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2000. The prayer reads (in part):
We are deeply saddened
by the behavior of those
who in the course of history
have caused these children of yours to suffer,
and asking your forgiveness
we wish to commit ourselves
to genuine brotherhood
with the people of the Covenant.
Born Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II made strides in ameliorating the often strained relationship between Jewish and Catholic communities. He grew up in Wadowice, Poland, a town where a quarter of his classmates were Jewish. He was especially close to Jerzy Kluger, the son of the president of Wadowice’s Jewish community and they remained close friends until the pontiff’s death in April 2005. As Bishop of Krakow, he participated in the Second Vatican Council’s dramatic change in the Church’s relationship with other religions and established close and personal ties with the Jewish community in his city. As pope, he publicly apologized for the persecution of Jews by Catholics over the centuries. He was first pope in history to enter a Jewish house of worship when he visited the Great Synagogue in Rome, and frequently met with Jewish leaders, openly condemned anti-Semitism, and commemorated the Holocaust.
Many thanks to our colleagues for bringing the prayers and hopes of so many to Jerusalem. We wish the exhibition continued success as it tours museums and universities across the country.