Landmark Cincinnati Exhibit to Be Displayed Permanently in Krakow Poland
by James Buchanan, Xavier University
“A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People” was conceived, built and premiered in Cincinnati. The 2300 square foot, multimedia exhibit was the result of a unique relationship between the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati and Xavier University. A relationship that has flourished through the years since the exhibit.The exhibit was conceived and built by people and organizations all over the world led by Dr. James Buchanan and Rabbi Abie Ingber of Xavier University and Dr. William Madges, who taught at Xavier at the time but now teaches at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. It opened at Xavier on May 19, 2005 on the occasion of what would have been Pope John Paul II’s 85thbirthday. The exhibit went on to tour the United States for the next 9 years in 18 venues from coast to coast where it was experienced by over a million people. In 2015 the exhibit traveled to Europe where it opened at the Vatican Museum on July 28th to great acclaim. At the closing ceremony at the Vatican in September of 2015, the exhibit was presented as a gift for permanent display at the new Saint John Paul II Center being built in Krakow Poland.
The message of the exhibit concerns the importance of interfaith dialogue and the role that Saint John Paul II played throughout his Papacy in fostering dialogue between all the world’s religions but particularly between the Catholic Church and Judaism. What is unique about Saint John Paul’s story as told in the exhibit is that all of the interfaith “firsts” he did as Pope were not decisions he made when he became Pope but the lessons he learned as a child growing up with Jewish friends such as Jerzy Kluger in Wadowice, Poland. Those firsts include the fact that Jerzy Kluger was his first private audience as Pope; that he was the first Pope to visit a Synagogue; the first Pope to make an official visit to Israel where he visited not only Christian sites but Jewish sites such as Yad Vashem and the Western Wall; and he was the first Pope to recognize the state of Israel. What Saint John Paul II did with Judaism extended to all of the world’s religions as made a point to meet with and listen to leaders of all faith traditions and as he twice sponsored interfaith celebrations of peace in Assisi, Italy.
On November 21, 2016, Executive Director, James Buchanan and Robert Shelton, the site engineer, traveled to Krakow to do the initial stages of the installation in a space in the new museum that has been specially prepared for the exhibit. The museum will open sometime in 2017 where it will not only carry its message of the importance of interfaith dialogue and collaboration to the millions of pilgrims who will visit the site but will also be an important voice for the future generations of Poles and people from around the world about the dangers of anti-Semitism or prejudice against those of other faith traditions than our own.
Read more about the Exhibit at www.blessingexhibit.org