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January 10, 2011 | Volume 86, Number 6
 

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photo: A woman visits the Blessing exhibit which features the experience of the Jewish people as seen by Pope John Paul II.Va. Holocaust Museum
New exhibit to highlight role of Pope and Jews

An exhibit which depicts the role Pope John Paul II played in promoting tolerance toward the Jews will open at the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond on Sunday, Jan. 24.

The Blessing Exhibit, as it is called, derives its title from John Paul’s appeal on the 50th anniversary of the uprising of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto.

“As Christians and Jews, following the example of the faith of Abraham, we are called to be a blessing to the world,” Pope John Paul said. “This is the common task awaiting us. It is therefore necessary for us, Christians and Jews, to first be a blessing to one another.”

The exhibit is an attempt to show how Pope John Paul II used his papacy to promote understanding, respect and dialogue among people of differing cultures and faiths.

The exhibit is comprised of over 2,000 feet of interactive display. It includes flat screen monitors showing historical film footage and recent interviews prepared for the exhibit, replicas of the Western Wall in Jerusalem and the Warsaw Ghetto gate, as well as artifacts, images, and texts.

Visitors will be able to view the documentary beginning with John Paul’s childhood in Poland through his achievements as pope.

Visitors become part of the documentary, walking through a multi-sensory experience: backdrops of enlarged photos and period postcards with artifacts set against soundscapes.

The first section of the exhibit shows Wadowice, Poland where the future pope, Karol Wojtyla, grew up in an apartment owned by a Jewish family and had many Jewish friends. Visitors view the pope’s baptismal certificate and school records and see the world as it looked from his bedroom window.

The exhibit has already appeared in Washington, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Houston. It was created through the collaboration of Xavier University of Cincinnati, Hillel Jewish Student Center in Cincinnati and the Shtetl Foundation.

The Virginia Holocaust Museum, located in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom area, will host the exhibit from January through June. It most recently was on display at the Jewish Museum of Maryland in Baltimore.

The Catholic Diocese of Richmond has given $5,000 toward the exhibit.

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