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People of the Holy Land Reflect on John Paul II's Legacy

People in the Holy Land are reflecting on the papacy of John Paul II. The pope found favor with Christians, Muslims and Jews alike.

Bells rang at churches in Jerusalem and Bethlehem in memory of Pope John Paul II. But his legacy goes well beyond the Roman Catholic Church. Father Gourson is a Armenian Orthodox priest in Jerusalem.

"His achievement mainly [is] as a great Christian leader," said Gourson. "He has done a lot of achievements for the Christianity."

But Muslims and Jews are also praising the pope. They remember well his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land five years ago. Iyad Abu Shulbak is a Palestinian Muslim.

"He was able to be with other people, other religions, with Jewish, with Muslims," said Iyad Abu Shulbak. "He talked [with], tried to make peace with everybody."

The pope won Israeli hearts when, during his pilgrimage, he asked forgiveness from the Jews for centuries of persecution by the Roman Catholic Church.

"He was an honorable man, and he should be remembered as a great man," said Yitzhak Hayoutman.

Yitzhak Hayoutman, an Orthodox Jew, told VOA that the pope did a lot to heal the troubled relationship between the Jewish people and the Catholic Church.

"There's a lot of bad blood," he said. "It's a very complex and very convoluted relationship, and he managed to patch up a lot in it."

Both Jews and Muslims noted that John Paul II was the first pope to visit a synagogue and a mosque.