Illness has caused an old female friend of the Pope to cancel her planned meeting with Pope John Paul II in Israel next week.
   Genka Barr, who is Jewish, was a close associate of the Pope then called Karol Wojtyla when they were young together in their hometown Wadowice, Poland. Their friendship is captured in a rare photograph, reproduced in the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv last Friday.
   It shows Pope John Paul II as a young man back in the early thirties with the young Genka.
   The two posed for a photograph, wearing costumes belonging to a theatrical company in their home town Wadowice. Both were actively involved with the company which reportedly put on classical and satirical comedy plays.
   According to Genka Barr's daughter, her mother and Karol Wojtyla, were good friends. They would read poetry and rehearse together in the theatre. They even went skiing together.
   But there was no hint of a romance in their relationship.
   The sad part of the story is that Genka, who is three years older than the Pope, is now living in Israel but is too ill to meet her old acquaintance when he makes his historic visit to Israel on 21 March.
   Meanwhile an Israeli official has reported that part of a covering meant to protect the Pope from the sun collapsed on Monday on the stage where he is to conduct a huge open-air Mass near the Sea of Galilee next week.
Irish Independent &


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