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Pope demonstrated particular sensitivity to Jewish issues

KRAKOW, Poland—Pope John Paul II was widely acclaimed for his unprecedented outreach to other religions. He was, for example, the first pope to pray in a mosque and a synagogue.

He was particularly sensitive to Jewish issues, a concern that grew out of his distress at Polish anti-Semitism and the harsh treatment of Jews in Poland during World War II. The future pope was a university student and seminarian in Krakow during the war.

Tadeusz Jakubowicz, the leader of the Jewish community in Krakow, paid tribute to the pope on Sunday, calling him "the great apostle of reconciliation between Catholics and Jews."

In an interview with Knight Ridder, Jakubowicz said, "If John Paul II had been the pope 60 or 70 years ago, the Holocaust wouldn't have happened."

Jakubowicz managed to survive the Krakow ghetto, as well as the Plaszow work camp that was central to the film "Schindler's List." He said he also spent two years living in a forest, helped by Polish Catholics.

He ordered black flags to be hung at the city's two working synagogues starting Monday. And memorial prayers for the pope will begin Friday at the Remuh and Tempel synagogues.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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