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Blessed John Paul II’s childhood Jewish friend dies in Rome at 90 

ROME (CNS): Jerzy Kluger, Blessed Pope John Paul II’s lifelong Jewish friend, who had a deep impact on the pope’s commitment to improved Catholic-Jewish relations, died in Rome on December 31 at the age of 90. 

Both Kluger and Karol Wojtyla grew up in in Wadowice, Poland, and attended elementary school there together. Most of Kluger’s family died during the Holocaust, but he managed to survive and eventually settled in Rome. 

During the Second Vatican Council, when the future pope came to Rome as auxiliary bishop of Krakow, he and Kluger were reunited. They maintained their friendship through the years and Kluger was a frequent guest at the Vatican. 

In his 1994 book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul wrote of their friendship in the context of why he had made improving Catholic-Jewish relations a priority in his pontificate. 

The pope said that Vatican II’s teaching on the shared traditions of Christians and Jews reflected the personal experience of many people, including his own “from the very first years of my life in my hometown. I remember, above all, the Wadowice elementary school, where at least a fourth of the pupils in my class were Jewish.” 


Over 2.5 million saw
Pope Benedict in 2011 

Vatican City (Agencies): Over 2.5 million people saw Pope Benedict XVI at various activities throughout 2011. 

According to figures released by Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, around 501,000 people participated in general and private audiences, some 846,000 in liturgical celebrations, and around 1.2 million at weekly Angelus and Eastertide Regina Coeli prayers. 

The numbers only account for events at the Vatican and Castel Gandolfo and do not include the millions who were participated in activities related to papal trips.

The prefecture explained that the numbers are calculated on the basis of requests to participate in meetings with Pope Benedict, on the number of tickets distributed, as well as on estimations of people present.


Irish cardinal laments increase in suicides

Armagh ( Seán Cardinal Brady of Armagh, the Primate of All Ireland, lamented the increase in suicides in the country and urged parents to take time to be with and listen to their children. 

“The ability to listen is necessary in many areas of life, but this is one which it is extremely urgent,” he said in his January 1 homily. “Suicide is now the biggest killer of young men in Ireland, but not only young men. It is vitally important therefore that society, as whole, take on board its responsibility in this matter and give careful consideration to the challenge of listening appropriately to the concerns of young people.” 

He added, “At the present time, young people see how difficult it is to find a job and to form a family. The greatest challenge, however, is that of communicating to young people an appreciation for the positive value of life.” 


Withdraw from games Bhopal survivors tell Olympics sponsor

LONDON (UCAN): Survivors of the Bhopal gas leak from a Union Carbide factory in India are demanding that Dow chemicals, which bought out the company, withdraw its name as a sponsor of the Olympic Games in London this year.

Although Dow announced on December 19 that it had removed its logo from the Olympic Stadium, people say this is not enough, as it has responsibility for the unpaid debts of the company it took over.

The 1984 gas leak killed hundreds of people and left tens of thousands maimed and injured. A campaign is also running demanding that India boycott the games if Dow refuses to withdraw its sponsorship.

“Removing the logo alone doesn’t mean anything. We want the sponsorship withdrawn. There should be no association between the London Olympics and Dow,” said Rachna Dingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action.

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