Holocaust Remembrance Day and Two New Saints
There are no coincidences in the kingdom of God, both on earth and in heaven. Today we celebrate the canonization of two modern popes and this evening the world begins the annual observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Both Saint Pope John XXIII and Saint Pope John Paul II had a significant impact on the lives of countless Jewish people in modern times. During WW2, as ambassador to Turkey, Cardinal Roncali (John 23rd) helped thousands of Jews escape the Nazi purge.
”We are dealing with one of the great mysteries in the history of humanity,” Roncalli wrote about the Holocaust. ”Poor children of Israel. Daily I hear their groans around me. They are relatives and fellow countrymen of Jesus. May the Divine Savior come to their aid and enlighten them.”
Later on as the pope who called the second Vatican Council, Saint Pope John XXIII was responsible for the document Nostra Aetate (In Our Time) whose purpose was to repair the breach that existed for a hundreds of years between the Jews and the Catholic Church. Some excerpts below:
”Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues.”
”Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures.”
”Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel’s spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.”
Saint Pope John Paul II who was also present at the Vatican II council was also a strong advocate for the Jews during his pontificate and apologized for the Church's mistreatment and persecution of the Jews through the centuries. He too lived through WWII and saw the Holocaust unfold around him. He was the first pope since Peter to enter the Great Synagogue of Rome and pray with the Rabbis and the Jewish community.
"You are our beloved brothers ... you are our elder brothers" in the faith of Abraham."
"Who meets Jesus Christ meets Judaism." He described Jews as "the people of God of the Old Covenant never retracted by God."
Here is the prayer he left in the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem when he prayed there:
"We are deeply saddened by the behaviour 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.”
We can see the wisdom of God in coinciding the canonization of these two great saints on Divine Mercy Sunday and the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. May we, as Catholic Christians, always sense the paternity we have with the Jews and pray that such a holocaust will never happen again.