John Paul II in Jerusalem

For nearly two millennia, Jews have prayed at the Western Wall, all that is left of the Jerusalem Temple compound after the Romans destroyed the city following the second Jewish revolt. Now came the bishop of Rome, the successor of Saint Peter, to pray at the Western Wall, as a humble pilgrim acknowledging the full validity of Jewish prayer, on its own terms, at this most holy of Jewish sites. The Western Wall is for Jews the central physical remnant of biblical Israel, “the central symbolic referent for Jews as a people and for Judaism as a four- to five-thousand-year-old faith tradition.” As Eugene Fisher has noted, in praying at the Western Wall, there was no hesitation in the pope’s religious affirmation of Judaism, no political, theological, or social caveat.