NEW YORK (Sep. 1)
The Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles stepped up its campaign this week to persuade the Vatican to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel by taking out full page advertisements in major national and international newspapers.
The ads which appeared in the International Herald Tribune, The New York Times, and Los Angeles Times on Monday and Tuesday note that 250,000 Americans have signed a petition calling upon Pope John Paul II to reverse Vatican policy and establish full diplomatic relations with Israel.
The ads coincided with a top level meeting of Jewish leaders and Vatican officials including the Pope on Monday and Tuesday. But the Wiesenthal Center has also increased efforts on this front in anticipation of the Pope’s visit to America beginning next week. The Vatican’s absence of diplomatic relations was one of four central topics raised by Jewish leaders at their meetings in Rome this week.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said "Not since the days of Pope John XXIII’s historic Vatican II Council’s message of reconciliation has there been a higher level of expectation by world Jewry in connection with our relationship with the Vatican."
While noting that the Pope has been a victim of Nazism and has spoken out against anti-Semitism, Hier said "this is also the Pope who met with Yasir Arafat and Kurt Waldheim and who, in 1988, will meet with Waldheim again in Vienna"
Hier also noted the inconsistency of the Vatican’s relations with dictatorships like Fidel Castro’s Cuba, Agosto Pinochet’s Chile, Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran and "scores of other military juntas" while virtually singling out Israel as a country not worthy of such ties.
"It is time, then, to also focus on symptoms that made possible Pope John Paul II’s stepping to the front of the line to rehabilitate Kurt Waldheim, and what makes possible a return visit with Waldheim next June," Hier said. "It is, in our view, in large measure due to the long silence with which the Vatican has treated the Jewish people, a long silence which was deadly during the Holocaust years, and which continues through the Vatican’s refusal to accept the reality of Jewish renewal."