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Dutch Ashkenazi Council, After Prolonged Debate, Votes to Meet with the Pope During His Visit Next M

The Council of the Ashkenazi Congregations after months of emotionally charged debate, decided by a single vote last Sunday that its representatives would meet with Pope John Paul 11 when he visits The Netherlands next May.

The 23-member Council split 12-11 in favor of the meeting. It imposed two conditions, however — that the Vatican must promise in advance that the Pope will utilize the meeting to announce the Vatican’s recognition of the State of Israel; and that he must concede to the Jewish representatives the co-responsibility of the Catholic Church for the persecution of Jews for 2,000 years and specifically, for the absence of a public reaction to that persecution during World War II.

One of the II members who voted against the meeting said he did so because the conditions were too stringent. But the others opposed Jews meeting the Pope under any conditions as a matter of self-respect.

The issue has agitated Jewish circles here for months. The Executive of the Ashkenazi Congregations pointed out that Israel and the World Jewish Congress had spoken in favor of a meeting with the Pope. Israeli Premier Shimon Peres reportedly told the chairman of the Dutch Ashkenazi Congregation, Emanuel Winkler, in Paris two weeks ago, that such a meeting would be in Israel’s interest.

It was noted further that representatives of the Jewish communities in Switzerland, Spain and Canada have met with John Paul II. But opponents argued that the Jews of those countries had suffered less from Nazi persecution than Dutch Jewry, of which 80 percent perished in the Holocaust. They maintained that a meeting with the Pope would only aggravate the anguish of Holocaust survivors.

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