Praise as Pope John Paul beatified at Vatican

Jewish groups have paid tribute to Pope John Paul II following his beatification on Sunday.

The Pope, who died in 2005 after 26 years at the Vatican, was celebrated during his lifetime for his efforts to strengthen the links between Jews and Catholics.

Born in Poland in 1920, John Paul witnessed firsthand the persecution of Jews by the Nazis. As Pope he became the first in the role to visit a synagogue, prayed at Auschwitz on a Holocaust memorial trip and on a number of occasions met Holocaust survivors.

A strong spokesman against antisemitism, he visited Israel in 2005 and said prayers at the Western Wall.

The ceremony is the final stage before the Pope can be made a saint.
Rabbi Jack Bemporad, director of the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue in Rome, said: "We of all faiths [should] continue to learn from him."

Elan Steinberg, vice-president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said: "He had a personal connection to Jewish survivors and was himself a living witness and victim of Nazi brutality in his native Poland.

"As a champion of Catholic-Jewish reconciliation, John Paul made special efforts to emphasise the moral significance of the Holocaust and express his identification and empathy with its victims."

Mr Steinberg also called on the Catholic Church to halt the planned canonisation of the wartime pope Pius XII, whose Holocaust record has been the subject of debate for decades.

    Last updated: 9:18am, May 2 2011