WANTAGH - It was a somewhat unusual life path for a man from Wantagh who is now considered the most highly decorated Jewish person in the history of the Vatican.
Gary Krupp and his wife Meredith started on that path 13 years ago by accident. As the owner of some medical facilities on Long Island, he helped a hospital in Italy acquire some badly needed equipment.
From there, the Krupps sold most of what they owned to create the Pave the Way Foundation, now active in 16 nations. Among other things, the group has helped save ancient manuscripts and arranged art exchanges between the Vatican and Israel. Krupp says it's all about breaking down barriers with acts of goodwill.
"We deal with problems between religions because religion is used as an excuse, as a justification for all kinds of things. For making money, for hatred, for violence," Krupp tells News 12.
The Vatican has knighted Krupp twice for his work. In fact, he is considered the most decorated Jewish man in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. If you ask Krupp, he was just following the plan.
"I'm not a genius. I'm not a scholar. I'm not a historian. However, things happened in our life where we took the path. We walked down it and it was risky," says Krupp.
The couple's work brought them four meetings with Pope John Paul II and 19 meetings with Pope Benedict. They have already met Pope Francis twice and will be meeting with him again next month in Rome.