Jewish Woman Recalls Pope as Good Samaritan
“Fifty-five years ago, recently liberated form a Nazi work camp, the 14-year-old girl had walked as far as she could toward Krakow and then had lain down, expecting to die of exhaustion. ‘I was with swollen feet and with nothing to continue in my heart,’ she recalled. Suddenly a priest [actually a seminarian] appeared, dressed in brown, 'strong and tall and very handsome … It was as if someone from the heavens had been sent down to me.’ He brought her tea, bread and cheese, then carried her on his back three kilometers to a train station. He called her Edita — the first time since her deportation that anyone had called her by anything but a number.
“When they reached Krakow, some other Jews told her to abandon the priest lest he try to convert her, and she hid. But she remembered his name and that he was from Wadowice. Reading a story on the new Pope in Paris Match in 1978, she said, 'This is the man who saved me! 'Today she came to Yad Vashem [the Jerusalem Holocaust Memorial] to thank him. And she did, tears streaming down her face as that strapping young priest — now the frail, elderly Pontiff — laid his hand gently on her arm. After meeting Zierer and five other survivors in the memorial's Hall of Remembrance.”
Non-Catholic Christians and Repentance
“'There are lots of religious groups that have lots to apologize for,’ said John P. Gunnemann, a professor of religious ethics at Emory University … In the United States, Gunnemann pointed out, it was often powerful Protestant leaders who failed to forcefully condemn the American slave trade, who provided religious endorsements for the murderous war against American Indians in the late 19th century, who avoided condemning the exploitation of religious and ethnic minorities during the immigration boom at the turn of the century, and who often said or did little about the rising power of racist and anti-Semitic groups before World War II.
“It is clear that the church has been a force for good, consistently offering courageous, forward-thinking visionaries to counter its lesser elements. Yet theologian Robert M. Franklin Jr. argues that ‘Institutionally sanctioned social evils have been of such magnitude that even churches that have entered an era of greater awareness owe an apology for their history of failing to do the work of Jesus Christ.
“Franklin, president of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, said he did not accept the frequently heard argument that Protestant churches lacked the hierarchical structure that would give their apologies the historic significance of the papal mea culpa.”
- April 16-22, 2000