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 CNS Story:

POPE-TOAFF Apr-5-2005 (320 words) xxxi

Rome's former chief rabbi prays before pope's body

By Eleni E. Dimmler
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Rabbi Elio Toaff, who welcomed Pope John Paul II when he made the first visit in history by a pontiff to a Jewish temple, came to pay his last respects to the pope in the Apostolic Palace.

The retired chief rabbi of Rome stood for more than a minute in silence before Pope John Paul's body, then raised his hand solemnly in blessing before walking in the long, slow line of visitors.

The pope's body remained on display in the Vatican's Clementine Hall until it was moved to St. Peter's Basilica the evening of April 4 for the start of general public viewing.

In the Clementine Hall, viewing was reserved for those with special ties to the Vatican. In the space closest to the pope's mortal remains, there were chairs reserved for those most closely associated with the late pontiff.

Cardinal Franciszek Macharski of Krakow, the pope's former archdiocese, was among the cardinals who came to pray next to the pope's body. The 77-year-old Polish prelate knelt at length on the marble floor, his eyes shut, his face grave.

Others included U.S. Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia; Italian Cardinal Pio Laghi, former Vatican envoy to the United States; Cardinal Bernardin Gantin of Benin, former dean of the College of Cardinals; and U.S. Archbishop John P. Foley, head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications until the pope's death, when most heads of Vatican departments automatically lost their jobs.

Rabbi Toaff was Rome's chief rabbi in 1986 when Pope John Paul made an unprecedented visit to the city's synagogue -- the first such visit in history by a pope to a Jewish temple. The pope on that and other occasions referred to the Jews as "our elder brothers."

Images of the pope and Rabbi Toaff side by side have remained ingrained in the memories of many people.

END


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