Remembering the Pope at U-M

I spoke last night at a vigil for Pope John Paul II at University of Michigan sponsored by the Polish Student Society. I had no reservation about speaking at this vigil as many rabbis around the world were reflecting and memorializing the Pope publicly. I spoke first and explained how meaningful it was for me to be a part of this vigil not only as a rabbi, a Jew, and a member of the Human Race, but also as someone of Polish decent (3 out of 4 of my grandparents have Polish heritage). My colleague, Father Dan Reim, spoke very well and summarized the Pope’s achievements in all areas including his interfaith work.

Overall, I thought the vigil was very nice and appropriate. My only criticism is that the remarks by a Polish student (the one who invited me to speak) were outrageous and inappropriate. This student began his speech by explaining that the reaction to the Pope’s death could be likened to the American reaction after September 11. He then said, “Fortunately, there’s no perpetrator to chase after.” Comparing the death of an 85-year-old man (even a wonderful man like the Pope who contributed so much to society) to the tragic murder of thousands of innocent civilians in a terrorist attack is rediculous. Even if he only made the claim that the reaction to both events are similar and not the actual acts, this is an insult to the families of the victims of 9/11. The Polish people, a billion Catholics, and millions of non-Catholics worldwide are mourning the loss of Pope John Paul II and are also grateful for the legacy he leaves. However, this type of mourning is the complete opposite of the mourning that took place in the weeks after 9/11 in our country.

The complete Michigan Daily article is here.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |