In less than 48 hours I begin a journey into a place that has become surprisingly familiar to this Rabbi - the Vatican. The occasion of a four-day conference I am convening on Catholic-Jewish Dialogue brings me back again to St. Peter's and Rome. But first I have to recover from a whirlwind visit to Philadelphia to join my friend and teacher and former Xavier professor, Bill Madges, at the Philly opening of the exhibit, A Blesssing to One Another. The third of the "Three Musketeers", James Buchanan, had to stay in Cincinnati for the inventive and successful Children of Abraham program at the Freedom Center. Seeing Bill and Yaffa Eliach (a former scholar in residence at XU, and the creative spark for the exhibit) was a special treat. But the highlight of the evening was having a chance once again to walk through the exhibit and to take 50 or 60 guests through on a guided tour. How wonderful it was to again be immersed in the beauty of the friendship between Karol Wojtyla and Jerzy Kluger. How grand it was to have all these old stories bubble up; stories that can heal a fragile world. I did share a tear, and more, as I recounted how the Holy Father embraced his Jewish friend at the first Papal audience. I saw once again our replica of the Western Wall in Jerusalem filling up with the prayers of Philadelphians. And, I touched the bronze casting of Pope John Paul II's right hand, the same hand I touched at my first Papal audience in 1999.
At 10:30 PM when I finally had a moment to greet my daughter, Tamar, who is studying at Drexel University in Philly, she reminded me that I didn't even tell the story of Jerzy Kluger and Karol Wojtyla pretending as young teens to be driving Jerzy's uncle's Rolls Royce. What father has such moments of pride in how his children have been raised?
Two years earlier when the College of Cardinals was meeting to select the current Pope, this same Tamar and her younger sister were following keenly to see if one of the Cardinals their father had already met might become the new Bishop of Rome. On Wednesday, God willing, their father will meet this new Pope. I doubt I will remember to tell him either about the Rolls Royce in Wadowice, Poland.