NEW YORK (Jan. 7)
An international Jewish organization has sent a letter to the Vatican urging Catholic officials to “seek to avoid another episode of controversy” during the pope’s announced visit to Austria in June.
The letter, approved Wednesday by member agencies of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), makes no specific reference to a possible second meeting between the pope and Austrian president Kurt Waldheim.
However, it reiterates an agreement reached during a meeting between Jewish representatives and senior Catholic officials at the Vatican last summer, at which the Jews voiced their dismay over the audience the pope gave Waldheim at the Vatican last June.
That agreement laid the groundwork for exchanges between Jewish officials and Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the Vatican secretary of state, in order to “avoid future misunderstandings.”
The letter is addressed to Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, president of the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews.
The letter did not request a meeting with Casaroli about the pope’s visit to Austria, because of uncertainty about Waldheim’s future as Austria’s president, according to Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, chairman of IJCIC and director of international relations for the American Jewish Committee.
Waldheim is under investigation by an international commission concerning his activities as an officer in the German army in World War II, and is facing increasing pressure within Austria to step down as president.
“It would be inappropriate to engage in any discussion that will be speculative about what will happen in June,” said Tanenbaum.