Jerzy Kluger, the Polish Jewish boyhood friend of the late Pope John Paul who had a major influence on the pontiff's revolutionary relations with Jews, has died, friends said on Monday.
Kluger, who was 92, died in a Rome hospital on new year's eve of complications from bronchitis and was buried on Monday in Rome's Jewish cemetery. He had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease and had been living in a home for the elderly east of the Italian capital.
Kluger and Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, were classmates in the southern Polish city of Wadowice and were friends from first grade through high school.
"The young Karol Wojtyla learned a lot about Judaism from Kluger," said Italian author Gianfranco Svidercoschi, who was an aide to the late pope and wrote a book about the pontiff's friendship with Kluger.
"He had a great influence on the pope's life," Svidercoschi, who wrote about their friendship in the 1993 book "Letter to a Jewish Friend," told Reuters.
...After Wojtyla became the first non-Italian pope in 455 years in 1978 they intensified their friendship and Kluger helped organize reunions between the pope and classmates from Wadowice either in Rome or during the pontiff's trips to Poland.
Kluger was in Rome's synagogue when Pope John Paul made his historic visit there in 1986 and called Jews "our beloved elder brothers."
When the pope made his first trip to Israel as pontiff in 2000, Kluger was in attendance at the Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust.
Their friendship continued right up to the pope's death in 2005.
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Monday, January 2, 2012
Blessed JPII's Jewish friend dies in Rome
From Reuters today:
Posted by Mary DeTurris Poust at 3:51 PM