Israeli Knesset honors Pope John XXIII

Recently canonized former Pope John XIII helped Jews escape during the Holocaust. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Israeli Knesset held a special session this week to commemorate Pope John XXIII, who was canonized by the Vatican in October, for helping save thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. 

Pope John XXIII, who was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, was pontiff from 1958 until he died in 1963. While he was Archbishop in Istanbul during the Second World War, he distributed documents—particularly conversion certificates—to European Jewish refugees that showed they were Christians, allowing them to escape the Nazi regime. 

His efforts—along with those of Vatican ambassador in Budapest Angelo Ratti, diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, and others—are believed to have saved thousands of Jews.

"There has not been an event like today’s in the history of the Knesset, an event which is so important to our relations with the Christian and Catholic world. John XXIII should serve as an example for all men of the need to bring together peoples of different races, faiths, and beliefs," said former Israeli immigration and absorption minister Yair Tzeve, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog also spoke at the Knesset session, about his grandfather's encounters with Pope John XXIII.

In addition to his efforts to help Jewish refugees, Herzog said, the former pope "initiated a massive revolution, which established that Judaism was the older brother to Christianity, and as such, removed all negative references [to the Jews] in the Christian liturgy. He convened the Second Vatican Council and passed revolutionary decisions in relation to the Jews." 

Posted on May 14, 2014 .