Religion: Special Delivery from the Pope

An affecting letter eases strains between Jews and the Vatican

Dismay and anger were the reactions of American Jews last June when Pope John Paul II welcomed Kurt Waldheim at the Vatican, despite accusations that the Austrian President had been involved in Nazi war crimes. The resulting controversy threatened to sour John Paul's nine-city trip to the U.S., which begins on Sept. 10. Jewish leaders in Los Angeles announced that they might boycott the Pope's scheduled interfaith celebrations. A more important Miami meeting between John Paul and American-Jewish leaders, intended to enhance relations, seemed doomed.

But the tension level dropped considerably last week following publication of a remarkable papal letter that...