Vatican to Host SJU Professor’s Exhibit on John Paul II and the Jewish People
Thursday, June 18, 2015
An award-winning exhibit celebrating the connection between Saint John Paul II and the Jewish people and co-created by William Madges, Ph.D., professor of theology at Saint Joseph's University, will travel to the Vatican and be on display from Tuesday, July 28 through Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015.
The 2,500 square-foot interactive exhibit, entitled “A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People,” takes viewers from the Pope’s childhood, through the War years and his early ministry, to his papacy, with special attention to his relationship with his closest, life-long Jewish friend Jerzy Kluger. The exhibit tells the pope’s story with the help of a unique collection of photographs and artifacts.
The exhibit will be on display at Braccio di Carlo Magno Hall in St. Peter’s Square. Because of its proximity to St. Peter’s Basilica, the museum often sees tens of thousands of visitors per day. Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations With Jews, will speak at the closing celebration on Sept. 17.
“It is a rare privilege to be permitted to display our work at one of the Vatican Museums,” says Madges. “Few exhibits are given this honor.”
Many photographs and artifacts in the exhibit are on loan from museums and individuals in the United States, Poland, Italy and Israel. Some of the artifacts include:
- Reproductions of Saint John Paul II’s baptismal certificate, school transcripts, and 1979 United Nations speech.
- Shoes worn by Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz and a can of Zyklon-B, the chemical used by Nazis to kill Jews in gas chambers.
- A stole and miter the Pope received during his trip to Africa.
- A one-of-a-kind edition of the speech Pope John Paul II made at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp in June 1979, during his first pilgrimage to Poland. This document is a facsimile copy of the Holy Father’s handwritten draft, and only two such copies exist.
- The walking staff used by the pope during his visit to Israel in 2000, which he used to help him approach the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where he placed a prayer of repentance in the cracks of the Wall.
“A Blessing to One Another” has toured the United States over the past nine years at 18 different venues, including the Kimmel Center in 2007. The exhibition’s trip to the Vatican comes at a unique moment: the Church is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the document from Vatican II that revolutionized the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people; Catholics are also marking the tenth anniversary of the death of Saint John Paul II and preparing for Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia at the end of September.