NEW YORK (Aug. 13)
Elie Wiesel said Thursday that he is “seriously considering” a long-standing invitation from the Vatican to meet privately with Pope John Paul II later this month and will probably accept. Wiesel said he would decide on the meeting within a week.
Wiesel told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he received the invitation weeks ago, before any discussion arose of a meeting between other Jewish leaders and the Pope at the Vatican.
The Pope has invited a delegation of five Jewish religious leaders to meet with him in Rome on Sept. 1. Wiesel’s meeting, should he accept the offer, would be prior to Sept. 1.
Wiesel said he will not represent any delegation or organization in his meeting with the Pope but will be speaking to him as a private person.
CRITICAL OF POPE-WALDHEIM MEETING
Wiesel has been critical of the Pope’s granting of an audience on June 25 to Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, accused of complicity in Nazi war crimes. But Wiesel has also censured Pope John Paul II for misinterpreting the Holocaust by denying its uniqueness as a Jewish tragedy. Instead, the Pope has acknowledged that Jews suffered more than other peoples but consistently stresses the Catholic victims of Nazism.
Wiesel said he would discuss his view of the Holocaust among other issues with the Pope but refused to elaborate on a possible agenda. He said he hopes the meeting will be private and the discussion will remain a secret.
The Vatican had arranged a meeting between the Pope and Jewish religious leaders on Sept. II in Miami during his visit to America. After the Pope’s audience with Waldheim, however, many of the Jewish groups scheduled to participate in the meeting withdrew in protest.
Many of the same organizations are now reconsidering their participation pending the outcome of the Sept. 1 meeting with the Pope. The Jewish groups are troubled, among other things, by what they perceive as the Pope’s insensitivity to the Holocaust reflected in the Waldheim audience and by the failure of the Vatican to grant diplomatic recognition to Israel.