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People in Holy Land Reflect on Pope's Legacy


Pope John Paul II looks at a white dove freed at the end of the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's square - File Photo
Pilgrims and residents of the Holy Land are reflecting on the legacy of Pope John Paul II. The pope found favor with Christians, Muslims and Jews alike.

Pilgrims from around the world visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City, as Pope John Paul II was laid to rest. For Thomas Chang of Taiwan, it was a moment to reflect on the pope's life.

"I like him, because he really was not staying just in the Vatican, but actually went out to see the people and, you know, spread the gospels," he said.

Others are looking ahead. "We would pray that a great spiritual man will be elected and have a new pope who loves peace and [has a] love for humanity," Sam Yoo of South Korea told VOA.

Ibrahim Zarour, a Muslim gatekeeper at the church, remembers the pope's historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land five years ago.

"He never looked at people as Muslim, or as a Jewish or as Christian," said Ibrahim Zarour. "He always wanted everybody to be with everybody, and everybody to live with everybody."

During his pilgrimage, the pope asked the Jewish people for forgiveness for centuries of persecution by the Catholic Church. And that won the hearts of Israelis. Israel's former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau is a Holocaust survivor, who met the pope five times.

"He bridged the gap between nations, religions, races, countries," the Rabbi said.

Israeli Holocaust survivor Idit Tzirer recalls how she was saved by a young Polish seminarian in 1945, who later became Pope John Paul II. Just liberated from a Nazi labor camp at age 13, she was freezing and starving.

"He gave me hot tea and food, and then carried me on his back three miles to safety," Mrs. Tzirer told Israel Radio. "He appeared like an angel from heaven."

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