On September 19, 1969, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland came to visit Cleveland as part of a tour of the United States. He visited with local government and religious leaders; and The Cleveland Plain Dealer was one of the news outlets to cover it at the time. Whatever faith you practice, you would know Cardinal Wojtyla better as Pope John Paul II, the earthly leader of The Catholic Church. He served in this role from 1978 until 2005. Some other things you may or may not know about him was that he respected and communicated with other religions’ leaders and strongly believed in religious tolerance. His respect especially for Judaism is chronicled in The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage’s latest exhibit, Pope John Paul II and The Jewish People.
The exhibit starts by chronicling Pope John Paul II’s life before the clergy. He was born in Wadowice, Poland on May 18, 1920. This was the first city that influenced his life tremendously. He tragically lost his Mom at an early age here. This city is where sadness definitely existed for the young boy, However, later on, he discovered happiness again because he was a participant in the local theater as an adolescent. He loved acting and writing. However, these happy times did not last. Young Karol Wojtyla and his father struggled to survive during World War II. His father died in the early 1940’s; and young Karol Wojtyla decided to study for the priesthood in secret in the second city that influenced him tremendously, Krakow. The Nazis were everywhere; and they hated every religion but especially Judaism. Hitler’s “final solution” was being put into practice everywhere. Young Karol feared for his friends’, many of them Jews, lives. He watched and/or heard about them being abducted and sent to the third city that influenced him, Oswiecim. You would know this city better by the hell just outside of its borders, Auschwitz.
As young Karol studied for the priesthood secretly, was ordained, and started his ministry; he often thought of his Jewish friends that he lost during the Holocaust. As a priest, bishop, cardinal, and then finally, Pope; he worked tirelessly for religious tolerance and for human rights. He believed that Jews as well as Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, American Indian Faiths, and all other faiths should be treated with love and respect. He met with leaders of other religions many times before and during his Papacy. He also believed that every religion has a version of The Golden Rule. It is true, they do. This is one of my favorite parts of the exhibiti right here. The exhibit also features The Assisi Decalogue, a Letter to Heads of State around the world that he sent on February 24, 2002. When he died on April 2, 2005, Pope John Paul II had established a legacy of being the first truly global Pope. Besides the fact that The Catholic Church is working to make him a saint, his faith, his compassion, his work, and his writings will live on forever.
The Maltz Museum is hosting this exhibit until August 5th. Please hurry and do not delay in experiencing this amazing exhibit.
Hey, Cleveland. The Maltz Museum is also hosting a panel discussion on The Life and Legacy of Pope John Paul II on Wednesday evening, July 11th from 7-9pm. Tickets are $20 for non-members and $15 for members.