Jerusalem — At about 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Pope John Paul II became the first pontiff in the history of Catholicism to recognize a State of Israel on its own soil.
Clutching his wooden staff under a steady rain, the stooped, white-robed Pope stood at a lectern at a festively decorated Ben-Gurion Airport landing strip, and in a hoarse voice said in English: “I greet all the people of the State of Israel.”
During his 43 years as a human rights activist, Rabbi Arthur Schneier has met three popes in the Vatican.
Next week the current head of the Catholic Church will pay the rabbi a return visit.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced on Thursday that Pope Benedict XVI will visit Park East Synagogue on the Upper East Side on the afternoon of Friday, April 18, during the pontiff's first trip to the United States. Only two popes are known to have previously set foot in a synagogue: Benedict XVI in Cologne in 2005, and his predecessor, John Paul II, in Rome in 1986.