VIENNA (Jun. 20)
Reinhold Stecher, the Bishop of Tyrol, is staunchly holding the line against parishioners who demand the reopening of a local church that embodies in its traditions and decorations the medieval ritual murder libel against the Jews.
The church, in Rinn, a tiny community outside Inns bruck in the Austrian Tyrol, is called Judenstein (Jew’s Rock). The Catholic cult that worships there was officially banned by the Vatican in 1961. But pilgrims continued to converge on Rinn several times a year.
Bishop Stecher encountered fierce protests when he ordered the church closed Sunday. Parishioners and pilgrims collected more than 3,000 signatures on a petition demanding its reopening. Several hundred reportedly threatened to leave the Catholic Church if the Bishop refused.
The church in Rinn perpetuates a legend that Jewish merchants, in 1462, killed a three-year-old Christian child, named Andreas or Anderle, to use his blood for ritual purposes. There is no historic basis whatever for the blood libel which is depicted in paintings in the church. Followers of the cult believe the child Anderle is an intermediary in delivering prayers to God.
BISHOP WILL NOT TOLERATE DEFAMATION OF JEWS
Bishop Stecher declared, during a Corpus Christi procession last Sunday, that he would not tolerate the defamation of Jews and had the church padlocked. He is standing tough against mounting pressure. Sources close to the Bishop indicated the church would remain closed until “certain circles” demonstrate insight and a willingness to listen to reason.
According to the Bishop, the large majority of the worshippers are not anti-Semites or neo-Nazis, though he admits there are such tendencies in the surrounding region. He said the legends of ritual murder by Jews were part of the centuries-old campaign of the Catholic Church against Jews which brought unspeakable sorrow to the Jews and disgraced Christians in the judgement of the world.
The Bishop noted in a pastoral letter that even if most of the inhabitants of Rinn are not anti-Semites, it is they who uphold a tradition of defamation.