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April 21, 2009 - July 31, 2009
Alvernia University
Franco Library & Learning Center

The Exhibit

Be Part of the Blessing

A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People. This first-of-its-kind exhibit features photos, video footage, documents, and artifacts chronicling the Pope’s contributions to relations between the Catholic and Jewish faiths from 1920 to the present day, and presents an ideal learning opportunity for adults interested in world history, World War II, the Holocaust, and Christian-Jewish dialogue.

In the course of his papacy, John Paul II shattered the chain of 2,000 years of painful history between Catholics and Jews, becoming the first pope ever to enter a synagogue, officially visit and recognize the State of Israel, and formally engage in an act of repentance for the Catholic Church's historical treatment of Jews.

The exhibit drew its name from the pope's 1993 appeal marking the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising: "As Christians and Jews, following the example of the faith of Abraham, we are called to be a blessing to the world. This is the common task awaiting us. It is therefore necessary for us, Christians and Jews, to first be a blessing to one another."

What You Will Experience

The Blessing to One Another Exhibit is presented in four parts taking guests through a historic walk though the life of this beloved pope.

Part I: 1920-1938 - Wadowice, The first section of the exhibit centers on Wadowice, Poland. There, the future pope, Karol Wojtyla, grew up in an apartment owned by a Jewish family and established many friendships with Jewish children, including lifelong friend Jerzy Kluger. Visitors view Wojtyla's baptismal certificate and school records, and see the world as it looked from his bedroom window. They also explore Jewish life in Wadowice as well as the interaction between the Catholic and Jewish communities.

Part II: 1939-1945 – Occupied Poland, In the second section, visitors follow Wojtyla's path to Krakow and enter the dark years of World War II through a replica of the Krakow Ghetto gate. During the Nazi occupation, the future pope was forced to take his university studies underground while working in a factory by day. It was far worse for his Jewish friends and neighbors. Displayed in this area are somber reminders of the Holocaust, including prayer shawls and shoes from the Holocaust Museum at Auschwitz.

Part III: 1946-1977 - Ministry, The third section of the exhibit traces Wojtyla's rise from priest to bishop to cardinal. During this period he participated in the Second Vatican Council's dramatic change in the Church's relationship with other religions. As bishop of Krakow he also established close and personal ties with the Jewish community. Among the artifacts in this section, visitors find the biretta worn by Wojtyla when he became a cardinal and handwritten notes for one of his books.

Part IV: 1978-2005 - Pontificate, The final section celebrates John Paul II's papacy. It features a ceremonial lamp and papal vestments from the 2002 World Day of Prayer at Assisi, videos of religious and world leaders speaking with the pope, and a replica of Jerusalem's Western Wall. Visitors are encouraged to write a prayer and place it in the wall, emulating the pope during his historic visit to Israel. As they move out of the exhibit, visitors are also able to touch a bronze sculpture of the late pope's hand.

Sponsored by Alvernia University and the Holleran Center for Community Engagement.

A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People was created and produced by Xavier University, Hillel Jewish Student Center (Cincinnati), and the Shtetl Foundation.

This traveling exhibition was made possible by the following funders: Xavier University, The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, and the Holleran Center for Community Engagement.


Contact the Holleran Center for Community Engagement for more information: