AJ Congress Calls for Boycott of Passion Play; German Writer Files Suit Against Play

The American Jewish Congress has criticized the decision of Julius Cardinal Doepfner, Archbishop of Munich, to attend the opening of the Oberammergau Passion Play today and called for a worldwide boycott of the performances that are scheduled from now through September. In a statement yesterday. Rabbi Arthur J. Lelyveld, Congress President, said the West German prelate’s action would "invariably be interpreted as Church endorsement of an anti-Semitic spectacle whose producers have obstinately refused to change the text in accordance with Vatican Council II." Last March 28 the Congress and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith examined the 1970 "revised" text and found it still identified Jews as "the principal malefactors who scheme to bring about the death of Jesus" and still imputed collective guilt for decide to the Jewish people.

(A suit was filed in a Munich court charging the organizers of the Passion Play with anti-Semitism and incitement against the Jewish people. Cardinal Doepfner, who attended the performance with members of the Bavarian state government, rejected charges that it was anti-Semitic. But the Cardinal apparently had some reservations. He published an open letter two days ago in which he said he felt uneasy about certain "over-exaggerations" in the script which could be interpreted as blaming the Jewish people collectively for the Crucifixion. Cardinal Doepfner wrote that the next production of the Passion Play, ten years hence, should "clearly express that Christ died for all mankind." The Cardinal’s letter was reportedly the result of pressure from world Jewry. Legal action against the play was taken by Bernt Engelman, a non-Jewish German writer who is chairman of the League of Human Rights.)

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