Argentine Catholics Deplore Priest’s Anti-semitic Remarks

An organization of Catholic lay leaders in Argentina has condemned recent anti-Semitic remarks made by a Catholic priest in their country and has offered profound apologies in a letter to Seymour Reich, international president of B’nai B’rith.

The letter, released here Wednesday, was written by Estiban de Navares, president, and Emilio Albistur, secretary of the National Commission on Justice and Peace, a group composed of lay leaders of Argentina’s Conference of Bishops. It expressed what the Vatican representative in Buenos Aires refused to say publicly after a meeting with Reich there last week.

“On behalf of the Catholic community, we humbly ask you to forgive us for the offense you have been given,” the Catholic leaders wrote They were referring to a homily delivered by Father Manuel Beltran in Cordoba Oct. 4 during a Mass honoring “victims of subversion.” It was attended mainly by right-wing military officers opposed to the government of President Raul Alfonsin.

Beltran denounced “bad” Jews who “surround” the government, in contrast to “good” Jews who keep out of public affairs. He also recommended the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a notoriously anti-Semitic tract, as food for thought.

When Reich raised the issue at a meeting with the papal nuncio in Buenos Aires, Msgr. Ubaldo Calabresi told him he had informed Beltran that he was wrong, but would make no public statement of disapproval because the incident was isolated.

The letter from Navares and Albistur spoke of the 10,000 posters B’nai B’rith members had placed around the Argentine capital addressed to “our Catholic brothers,” which condemned anti-Semitism.

They said they were writing for two purposes: to express their appreciation for Reich’s visit to Argentina and for reminding Catholics, by way of the posters of their obligation “to love our elder brothers in the faith and therefore, as Vatican Council II says, deplore hate, persecution and expressions of anti-Semitism of any time or person against Jews.”

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