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Pope creates link among other faiths

They represent a diversity of faith – both Christian and non-Christian – but Nebraska and Omaha area spokesmen for those faiths found common ground in their admiration of Pope John Paul II and the impact of his life, not only on Catholics, but the entire world.

Some spoke of Pope John Paul's outreach to other Christians and other religions. Others mentioned his strong, consistent stands on issues such as abortion, the death penalty, war and helping the poor.

Still others spoke of his leadership abilities and his impact on the world political scene.

Those comments – from interviews with The Catholic Voice, official statements for the media and letters to Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss – included:

--"I saw a man who was willing to embrace others as they were and where they were, while at the same time not diluting the teachings of the faith.

"We appreciated his values and shared many of his views, including abortion and life issues.

"God used the pope's health and ultimately his death to bring a positive light to what is sometimes a dark world."

--Mark Elliott
Director of Missions
Eastern Nebraska Baptist Association

-- "John Paul was a wonderful man ... a great man. He did many good things. He was a man of peace all over the world, and nothing but good came from him."

-- Ahmed Elzaree,
Resident Iman,
Islamic Center of Omaha

--"His passion for justice and human rights, as a victim himself of Nazi occupation and communist oppression in his native Poland, and his phenomenal appeal to younger generations hungry for spiritual truth, will always be uppermost in my mind as I remember him with gratitude.

"The power of his personal appeal, his frequent travels and public accessibility, and his willingness to confront political leaders with a higher and nobler calling, have done much to increase the visibility and influence of the church in the modern era

"May the Holy Spirit guide the Church to a wise, compassionate and visionary pastor who will continue to invite all Christians, as well as persons of many diverse faiths, to join together in making manifest God's peace, justice, and love throughout the world.," he said. 

--Bishop Joe G. Burnett
Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska

--"With the death of Pope John Paul II, the Catholic community has lost a monumental leader and the Jewish community has lost a treasured friend.

"He was the first pope to condemn anti-Semitism as a sin against God … and he insisted on the validity of the God's covenant with the Jewish people.

"The Jewish community joins his holy flock in grieving for this courageous shepherd. His memory will be a blessing for millions."

--Rabbi Aryeh Azriel
Temple Israel, Omaha

--"For 26 years, he brought a message of peace and freedom to a world too often bereft of both … For the Jewish community, we will always remember the Pope's efforts in combating anti-Semitism and reaching out to the Jewish people whom he described as 'our elder brothers.'

"Because of whom he was and the blessings he spread throughout the world during his many journeys, there is much reason to praise God who has created the world, and who brought Pope John Paul II into it, to do a little tikkun (repair work) in a world desperate for it.

"Bethel El Synagogue joins with our Catholic friends and neighbors, and people of faith around the world, in mourning the death of Pope John Paul II."

--Rabbi Mordechai Levin
Beth El Synagogue, Omaha.

--"We want our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters to know they are in our prayers during this time of mourning, and also as new leadership is chosen

"I think of two things that were hallmarks of his ministry and leadership. He taught forgiveness by living forgiveness in a very profound and impactful way.

"And I appreciated his acceptance of people of every creed and race. His embrace of the world was tremendous."

--Bishop David L. deFreese
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
in Nebraska

--"For the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, we're thankful for John Paul's strong voice in dealing with important issues, especially for his pro-life vision and position.

"We appreciate his leadership is seeking ways to work out differences between faiths.

"We join with those all over the world in grieving his death, and – like those people – find our comfort in Christ Jesus."

--Rev. Russ Sommerfeld
President of the Nebraska District,
Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

--"I appreciated the pope's compassionate stand as he related to the poor, as he related to the death penalty, as he related to victims of war.

"His was a strong voice for peace and compassion.

"The United Methodist Church deeply appreciated his ministry.

--Bishop Ann Scherer
United Methodist Church
in Nebraska

--"Presbyterians join the rest of the world in grieving with the church.

"We recognize the tremendous sense of outreach he (Pope John Paul II) had in the travels he did to address, not only Roman Catholics, but the rest of the whole world.

"He certainly had influence as a church leader in the world. We lost an ambassador for the faith."

--Bart Brenner
Executive Presbyter
Missouri River Valley Presbytery

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