Pope John Paul II, who served as Bishop of Rome and Pope from October 1978 until April 2005
Pope John Paul II ushered in a new era of warm relationship with the Jewish community. From the Second Vatican Council's phenomenal delaration of respect for people of other religious faiths, especially for Jews in the hailed document, Nostra Aetate (Latin for "Our Age"), there has been a gradually growing trust between the Catholic Church and the wider Jewish community.
The late Holy Father referred to Jews as "our elder brothers (and I would add, sisters)". He even took the uprecedented step of publicly acknowledging the failure of Christians in the past to respect Jews and to apologize for the wrongdoing committed in innumerable atrocities through the centuries, especially in Europe, culminating in the Holocaust rendered by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s.
Jewish children at Auschwitz in Nazi-occumpied Poland during the Holocaust of the Jews during the 1940s
This year 2009 we Catholics and other Christians who follow the Gregorian Calendar who are celebrating Holy Week happily coincide with the Jewish Passover (Pesach).
Pesach means "passing over", as the Book of Exodus relates when the Angel of Death, the Tenth Plague, comes upon Egypt at God's command to slay the first-born of human and beast alike. And among the humans, anyone who does not have the lintels and doorposts marked with the blood of the lamb will lose their first-born, male or female, to the Angel of Death!
Observant (i.e. religious) Jews celebrate the annual commemoration of God delivering Israel from Egyptian slavery -- the Passover meal, the plagues, the flight out of Egypt, the deliverance at the Red Sea, the giving of the Torah, the manna and quail, the water from the rock in the desert, all leading to the entry at the end of forty years into the Promised Land.
Jesus and his Apostles celebrating the Last Supper meal, which the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) portray as the Passover
For us Christians, Jesus is the fulfillment and every Eucharist is our celebration of the Passover of the Lord Jesus from death into resurrection, and our participation in that Paschal Mystery by entering into the Word of God and finally partaking of the Holy Mysteries of the Lord Jesus' Body and Blood at Holy Communion.