Wantagh residents Gary and Meredith Krupp became the first husband and wife duo in history to receive papal knighthoods this week when they were invested with the Grand Cross of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great. The award was in recognition of the couple’s nearly 20 years of service to interfaith understanding and to the Holy See.
The investiture took place at the Vatican Nunciature in New York City. Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican secretary for relations with states, and Vatican Ambassador to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, presented the awards and read the papal decree signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
The Krupps became only the sixth and seventh Jews to receive the award, which was instituted by Pope Gregory XVI
The pair founded the Pave the Way Foundation in 2002 as an organization dedicated to fostering understanding between religions by “eliminating non-theological obstacles,” according to the organization’s website.
Gary Krupp credits his meeting with former Pope John Paul II as the catalyst in forming the charity. “I’d been asked to help a hospital in Italy to upgrade their technology,” he said. The hospital was the Casa Solievo della Sofferenza (House for the Relief of Suffering) founded by Saint Pio of Pieltracina — better known as Padre Pio — located in the Apulia region of southern Italy. It is now one of the most modern hospitals in Europe, with one of the highest ratings for hygiene.
The archbishop of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo contacted the Vatican and asked that Krupp be given a papal knighthood in recognition of his service. The result was his investiture as a knight into the Order of St. Gregory. Meeting St. John Paul was so inspiring that the couple decided to commit themselves to fostering understanding between religions — especially between the three great Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
In recognition of Krupp’s continued service, former Pope Benedict XVI advanced him two degrees to the rank of Knight Commander with Silver Stars in 2007. The Grand Cross that the pair received on Monday is one of the highest honors the Vatican bestows on laypeople.
The Krupps have worked tirelessly to help improve relations between the Holy See, the State of Israel and Islamic nations. As an example, Krupp remembered being asked to help procure facsimiles of early Islamic documents that were housed at the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai. “The documents pertained to the covenant established by the Prophet Mohammed and the people ‘of the book’ — Christians and Jews,” he said. “According to the documents, a covenant of peace should exist between the three faiths eternally.” He contacted Orthodox Patriarch Theophilus III of Jerusalem, who contacted the archbishop of St. Catherine’s in turn. Facsimiles were duly arranged.
In the same way, when Israeli scholars wanted to study manuscripts of the works of the great medieval Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides that were housed in the Vatican Library, Krupp contacted the former Vatican Librarian, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who was able to arrange for facsimiles to be sent.
Although Krupp does not describe himself as religious, it is clear that his years in service of peace have had an impact. “We must embody the messages of charity, love and responsibility for every human being common to all our faiths, our beliefs and to the code of human behavior,” he wrote on the foundation website. “We focus on our similarities and savor our differences.”
In addition to the papal knighthoods, Gary Krupp is a knight of the British Order of St. John that was chartered by Queen Victoria in 1888; and Meredith received the Vatican’s Servitor Pacis (Servant of Peace) award.