From: Jewish Folktales. Selected and Retold by Pinhas Sadeh. Translated from the Hebrew by Hillel Halkin. An Anchor Book, Published by Doubleday, 1989, p. 197-199

In the city of Mainz lived a rabbi called Rabbi Shimon the Great , a scion of the House of David, who had a small son named Elchanon. One day the boy was kidnapped and given to the Church. When he grew older, he became a priest, and eventually, rising to the highest rung, the pope.

No pope was ever wiser, and kings and noblemen flocked to him from all over to ask for his advice, which he gave to each according to his degree. Yet seeing that among them was not a single member or acquaintance of his family, he summoned the cardinals who had elected him pope and said to them, 'Why is it that of all the thousands of people who have come to me, none say they are my father, mother, brother, or even cousin? Was I born to sticks and stones that I haven't a single relation in the world? If you can't tell me the reason for this, I'll have you all killed.'

'Your Holiness,' they replied, 'since you give us no choice, we must tell you that you are a Jew and that you were stolen from your parents when you were very young. God meant you for great things, and indeed all the kings of the earth come to seek your counsel and regard you as the regent of Christ. As for your father in the flesh, he lives in Germany and is known as Rabbi Shimon the Great.'

'Bring him to me!' commanded the pope.

And so the cardinals of Rome sent for Rabbi Shimon the Great and arranged an audience with the pope. Rabbi Shimon was greatly perturbed and feared some anti-Jewish plot -- why else would the pope have sent for a rabbi? -- but he firmed up his spirits and arrived at the appointed time. As soon as the pope saw Shimon, he summoned him to a private room. Seeing how fearful the rabbi was, he said to him, 'You needn't be afraid. Just answer all my questions truthfully."

'I will,' responded Rabbi Shimon.

'How many children do you have?' asked the pope.

Rabbi Shimon named all his sons and daughters.

'Haven't you forgotten someone?' the Pope inquired.

Rabbi Shimon said nothing, fearing that if he mentioned his missing son, he would be asked to produce him.

'Why don't you answer me?' asked the pope. 'Tell me the truth!'

'Your Holiness,' replied Rabbi Shimon, 'I did indeed have another son, who was kidnapped when he was little. But I have no idea where he is now, or whether he is even alive.'

'Did he have any birthmarks?' asked the pope.

Rabbi Shimon described some birthmarks on the boy's back and arm.

'Father, father!' cried the pope when he heard this. 'I am your son! Those birthmarks are mine!'

Rabbi Shimon was too shocked to utter a word. The pope, however, undressed, showed him the birthmarks, and said, 'Father, Father, how can I be admitted to Paradise?'

'You have profaned the Name of God before the whole world,' replied his father. 'The one way to atone for it is to sanctify his name by martyrdom.'

At once the pope bathed, dressed, climbed to the top of a tower, and cried out: 'Listen to me, one and all! Until now I did not want to tell you, but now I say to you that Jesus of Nazareth was an ordinary human being, born of a carnal mother like us all. Believing in him will not bring anyone salvation!'

'He must be mad!' said all the cardinals.

'You think I am mad!' cried the pope. 'Verily I tell you that the spirit of God is upon me and that you are the madmen!'

The cardinals decided to seize him and kill him, yet before they could, he leaped from the tower, preferring such a death to one at their unclean hands. And when his father, Rabbi Shimon the Great, heard that his son had martyred himself in God's name, he gave praise unto the Lord and composed a prayer containing the line El hanan nahalato beno'am. 'The Lord hath kindly mercy for His own,' the first two words of which were the name of his son the pope.