NEW YORK - Not many regular New Yorkers can say they know Pope Francis or the two popes who preceded him. But one Long Island couple has a very special relationship to the Vatican. In 2000, Gary Krupp, an owner-operator of medical centers from Long Island, was knighted by Pope John Paul II. It came after a friend put him in touch with a roman bishop who needed help procuring equipment for a hospital in Italy. He was only the seventh Jewish man to receive the honor.
Krupp said that put him in the position of being able to bring together Israel and the Vatican and the Jewish people and the Catholics. The result was the Pave the Way Foundation, which Krupp and his wife Meredith started.
One of the biggest and perhaps most controversial obstacles Krupp has tried to tackle concerns Pope Pius XII and his role during World War II: whether he did enough to renounce Nazism and save Jews. Krupp has spent years trying to prove Pius XII was a savior to tens of thousands of Jews, garnering plenty of criticism along the way.
Controversies aside, he is one of the Catholic Church's closest Jewish allies. His knighted status has opened doors few would have access to and has given him multiple audiences with popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Francis.
The Krupps won't be meeting with Francis during his two-day visit to New York. But they will meet him weeks later when they travel to the Vatican for meetings. While it is likely to be more ceremonial than personal, they know it will be uplifting.
Meredith says she still vividly remembers her first papal encounter with John Paul II. She says she knew she was in the presence of a holy man and that it changed her life.
The couple knows those who meet Pope Francis in New York will be touched in a similar way.