Religion: John Paul Clears the Air

Prayers, promises and frank talk at a summit with Jewish leaders

Most official meetings with a Pope are choreographed sessions during which practiced formalities and prepared formulations eliminate any chance of missteps. But last week at Castel Gandolfo, his summer residence outside Rome, John Paul II held a remarkably open, unrehearsed exchange with Jewish leaders, the first by a Pontiff in modern times. By every account, the warm 75-minute encounter went well beyond smoothing ruffled feathers and gave substantive promise of uplifting the troubled relationship between Roman Catholics and Jews.

A new era in that relationship began in 1965, with the Second Vatican Council's decree denouncing anti-Semitism. But the Holy See still...

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