The nearly 27-year papacy of one of the most beloved figures of the past century was drawing to an end. Pope John Paul II was succumbing to Parkinson’s disease, injecting urgency into the mission of Jewish leaders in Los Angeles.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, remembers trying to get that one last audience with John Paul II before the ailing pontiff – who had no less than “transformed” relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Jewish people – passed away.
Cooper had previously met the pope, including at the 1983 commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. But this time, he and Wiesenthal Center founder and dean Rabbi Marvin Hier were on a quest to deliver a simple, heartfelt message.
At first, a Vatican official seemed to pan the request, stressing to Rabbi Cooper that the pope was very ill — which was exactly why the rabbis felt the trip was so urgent. “Well, we’d like to come to say ‘thank you,’” Cooper told me, recalling the exchange.
One meeting was canceled at the last minute because the pope was too sick to receive visitors. Then they got a second chance: a Vatican official called and said if they didn’t mind hopping on a plane on the Sabbath, they could potentially get a meeting first thing that Monday. Which could, of course, get canceled at the last minute depending on how the fading pontiff was feeling.
Read more at PJ Media.