Pope John Paul II’s benevolent influence reached well beyond the Vatican walls and the hearts of Catholics to touch people of all religions.
During his 27-year reign, the pope traveled to more than 120 countries and earned the reputation of a humanitarian who tried to bring people together.
Area religious leaders said the pope’s travels and a lifetime of work to bring peace to the world endeared the people everywhere.
“This pope especially was someone who reached out to various religious communities and reached across the lines of religion,” said Rabbi Jennifer Weiner of Congregation Ner Shalom.
The congregation at the synagogue on Spriggs Road included the pope in a prayer for those in need of healing during their Friday evening and Saturday morning services, Weiner said.
The congregation was saddened to hear of the pope’s death Saturday afternoon, Weiner said.
Jake Zargarpur, of the Muslim Association of Virginia, echoed Weiner’s sentiments.
“He has done wonderful things for other religions,” Zargarpur said. “That was one of his missions to get all the religions of the world together. Look at all the non-Christian countries he visited.”
Pope John Paul II achieved a position as a world leader that few before him have done, Zargarpur said.
He got everybody to like him.
“I don’t think there’s a single person in the Muslim, Christian or Jewish world who did not like him,” Zargarpur said.
As a young priest in Krakow, Poland, the pope, then called Karol Wojyla, worked with an organization that hid Jews from the Nazis and procured false identifications so Jews could leave Poland and escape persecution.
Later Pope John Paul II spoke vehemently against communism. His words sparked a revolution in Poland that spread throughout the Soviet bloc.
“I think he worked very hard and in a lot of areas he was pretty successful,” Zargarpur said.
“He tried to bring peace into our world,” Weiner said.
“He was a humanitarian,” Zargarpur said.
Staff writer Keith Walker can be reached at (703) 878-8063.