March 23, 2000, should go down in history as a day of great reconciliation for the worst crime of the 20th century.
In two unconnected events in Israel and Germany, atonement was made for Nazi-era atrocities - and for the anti-Jewish thinking behind them. That they happened on the same day is both coincidental and memorable.
In Berlin, agreement was made on how to allocate $5 billion from a government-industry fund to the surviving slave and forced laborers of Hitler's Germany.
And in a visit to Jerusalem, Pope John Paul II addressed the Jewish people, saying the Roman Catholic Church "is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place."
While some critics may say both the pope's statement and the German compensation are too little, too late, both acts represent a closing that can heal the lingering effects of that historic attempt at genocide.
Lessons from the Holocaust are still to be learned, as recent genocidal violence shows. One lesson is that the magnitude of the tragedy requires magnanimous acts of reconciliation.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society