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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Karol Wojtyla and Jerzy Kluger (Catholics and Jews)

A few notes on the book entitled The Pope and I, by Jerzy Kluger:
Before WWII, in Wadowice, Poland, two men grew up in a Catholic/Jewish neighborhood.  The most famous of these men is Karol Wojtyla, but the second is his lifelong Jewish friend, Jerzy Kluger.  Together, they spent their elementary and highschool years in Wadowice, only to meet again after the War in Rome and in very different states of life.
Family Backgrounds:
A widower, Captain Wojtyla (Karol's father), led the Wojtyla family's life in Wadowice.  A tailor by trade, Captain Wojtyla later served as a Polish (then Prussian) officer in WWI.  He had three children with his wife Emilia: Edmund, Olga, and Karol.  Edmund became a physician just after WWI, caught scarlet fever while treating his patients and passed away a decade before WWII.  Olga also passed away much earlier on, not more than a few days old.  That left Karol as the only remaining son of Captain Wojtyla, whose wife even passed away when Karol was nine.

The Kluger family was a highly influential Jewish family in Wadowice.  Wilhelm Kluger was the president of the local Jewish community, and would regularly speak in the synagogue.  He had an eldest son, Jerzy (Jurek), and a daughter named Tesia.  Wealthy, well-educated, and gifted, Jerzy regularly noticed how much more advantaged he was than his friend 'Lolek' (Karol).  Here are some humorous examples:
--About skiing, "As we grew older, Lolek and I moved on to the tougher slopes around our area.  Lolek's technique was not as good as mine, and I was also afraid of his breaking my skis" (p.19)
--About ping-pong, "Lolek was also a good ping-pong player, although not as good as me, and I'd spot him ten points when we played together" (ibid).
--About soccer (and early indications of Wojtyla's deep understanding of Jewish/Catholic relations): "Usually Lolek would take his place between the goalposts...the spirit of competition was so fierce that even though he was not a Jew, Lolek showed no intention of taking it easy on the Catholics when he played goalie for the Jewish side" (p.25)
--About dancing with women:
"Lolek plunged into the action with Halina Krolikiewicz, the daughter of the principal of the boys' school.  I paired up with a girl named Olga, with blond hair and a floor-length green silk dress" (p.28)
Above are the lighthearted accounts of frienship in the book, but the two men also underwent tremendous tragedy in their lifetimes, mainly due to the Nazi take-over of Poland. The War proved to be devastating for both Kluger and Wojtyla families.  By it's end, only Wilhelm, Jurek, and Karol survived--and all apart from one another.  Wilhelm's wife, Rozalia, and daughter were both killed at Auschwitz.  And, Jerzy himself was taken with his father to a Soviet prison camp, Maryjskaja, only to be separated from him when obligated to join the Polish forces in Russia at Kara-Suu.
Without Lolek, Jerzy could have easily made the logical conclusion that all of Europe was anti-semitic, including Catholics.  Indeed, without the interactions that the Klugers had with the Wojtylas, Wilhelm would have also concluded that the entire world was against the Jewish people.  But Jerzy records a few touching stories that made a deep impression on him, and his father.
--Jerzy visits Catholic Mass, and is ridiculed by an elderly woman, only to be consoled by Lolek: "Believe me, Lolek, I didn't know Jews aren't allowed in here"...'Doesn't she know that Jews and Catholics are all children of the same God?' Lolek was barely ten years old'' (p.12)
--Lolek visits the synagogue: "I would like the Captain and Lolek to come to the synagogue on the Sabbath as well', father told me at one point.  I was immediately overjoyed, and I ran to extend the invitation to Lolek.  I thought again of what Lolek had told me a few years earlier, when I, as a Jew, had set foot in a church, and how my friend reassured me that this was not a sin, because Jews and Catholics come from the same God" (p.23)
Lastly, as I said, Jerzy and Lolek met again in two different states in life: Lolek as Pope, and Jerzy married, w/ 2 daughters, to a beautiful Irish Catholic woman.  They met regularly throughout JPII's pontificate, discussing Jewish/Catholic relations and ways of reconciling the two.  One such occasion arose when JPII got the idea to be the first Pope to attend Liturgy at the Roman synagogue:
--JPII in the Roman Synagogue: "You are our beloved brothers', he told them, 'and in a certain way, our older brothers'.  It was a phrase taken from Adam Mickiewicz, the author of Pan Tadewsz and Poland's greatest poet.  Hearing it again at the synagogue that day, I was suddenly brought back to those years before the war, and all of those old emotions welled up in me again.  When the pope finished speaking, there was again silence and prayer in the synagogue" (p.183).
Much healing took place in Jerzy Kluger's life on account of his friendship with Karol Wojtyla.  He was able to face the fear of returning to Poland, where his mother and sister had been murdered--he was able to serve as an ambassador to Israel for the Vatican--and above all, he was able to be a loyal friend to JPII on such a significant level that entire groups of people were reconciled by the sheer witness of their interactions, partnership, and love.

further note:
Jerzy Kluger remained a faithful Jew his entire life.  His immediate family (wife, daughters, and grandchildren) were all Catholic.  The Pope himself baptized Jurek's granddaughter with his blessing!
This stands in stark contrast to a few references to the Inquisition and forced baptisms (of Jews) in the book.  Nothing was forced in Lolek and Jurek's relationship--it was a partnership forged in suffering, good will, and solidarity that resulted in the same outcome the Inquisitors tried to  force from Jews, but without the prosetylization.
Personhood, in this sense, proved to be foundational for their friendship.  In the end, the Kluger family found the fullness of truth through personalism


Schaijik said...

I saw this post appear on personalistproject.org! Nice.

Anonymous said...

Lastly, I want to reference Cardinal Avery Dulles of happy memory. He has published much on the subject of Nostra Aetate–and I have hardly done him justice.
To Mr Verricchio’s credit, the Old Covenant is insufficient for salvation apart from Christ. But, Cardinal Dulles proposes both the necessity to evangelize in the name of Christ the King and to have a supersessionist understanding of the fulfillment of the old covenant by the new:
“Some Catholics, in their eagerness to reject a crude supersessionism, give independent validity to the Old Covenant. They depict the Old and New Covenants as two ‘separate but equal’ parallel paths to salvation, the one intended for Jews, the other for gentiles” (http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/08/the-covenant-with-israel—42)
and again,
Moreover Cardinal Avery Dulles, who criticized the aforementioned USCCB Reflections on Covenant and Mission, stated at the Nostra Aetate 40th anniversary conference in Washington last March that it is “an open question whether the Old Covenant remains in force today” and has opined that it is still a Catholic duty to invite Jews to receive the Christian faith (his text has recently been printed in the publication “First Things”)


Anonymous said...

The exact site for the USCCB reference is here:

Anonymous said...

Jewish liturgy and Christian liturgy. A better knowledge of the Jewish people's faith and religious life as professed and lived even now can help our better understanding of certain aspects of Christian liturgy. For both Jews and Christians Sacred Scripture is an essential part of their respective liturgies: in the proclamation of the Word of God, the response to this word, prayer of praise and intercession for the living and the dead, invocation of God's mercy. In its characteristic structure the Liturgy of the Word originates in Jewish prayer. The Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical texts and formularies, as well as those of our most venerable prayers, including the Lord's Prayer, have parallels in Jewish prayer. The Eucharistic Prayers also draw their inspiration from the Jewish tradition. The relationship between Jewish liturgy and Christian liturgy, but also their differences in content, are particularly evident in the great feasts of the liturgical year, such as Passover. Christians and Jews both celebrate the Passover. For Jews, it is the Passover of history, tending toward the future; for Christians, it is the Passover fulfilled in the death and Resurrection of Christ, though always in expectation of its definitive consummation.

Anonymous said...

Feast of St. Gregoty the Great 09/03/13:
Epistle X.
To Bacauda and Agnellus, Bishops.
Gregory to Bacauda, &c.
The Hebrews dwelling in Terracina have petitioned us for licence to hold, under our
authority, the site of their synagogue which they have held hitherto. But, inasmuch as we
have been informed that the same site is so near to the church that even the sound of their
psalmody reaches it, we have written to our brother and fellow-bishop Peter that, if it is the
case that the voices from the said place are heard in the church, the Jews must cease to
worship there. Therefore let your Fraternity, with our above-named brother and fellowbishop,
diligently inspect this place, and if you find that there has been any annoyance to
the church, provide another place within the fortress, where the aforesaid Hebrews may
assemble, so that they may be able to celebrate their ceremonies without impediment1313.
But let your Fraternity provide such a place, in case of their being deprived of this one, that
there be no cause of complaint in future. But we forbid the aforesaid Hebrews to be oppressed
or vexed unreasonably; but, as they are permitted, in accordance with justice, to live under
the protection of the Roman laws, let them keep their observances as they have learnt them,
no one hindering them: yet let it not be allowed them to have Christian slaves.