Austrian Jews Now View Pope’s Visit As ‘positive’

The Austrian Jewish community considers the visit here by Pope John Paul II last month to have been “positive” and as good as could have been expected.

That assessment was given by the president of the Jewish communities of Austria, Paul Grosz, in an interview Sunday with the Austrian news agency APA.

The positive evaluation contrasts sharply with the reaction of Jews when the pope visited Austria the last week of June.

At that time, they expressed shock and anger over the pope’s failure to mention Jewish suffering when he spoke at the site of the Mauthausen concentration camp. and his reference to Austria as a “victim” of Nazism rather than as the collaborator it was.

After the pope met with Jewish community leaders here on June 24, Grosz and Austria’s chief. rabbi, Paul Eisenberg, described the encounter as “disappointing.”

But Grosz now told the Austrian news agency that the papal visit was seen by the Jewish community as “extraordinarily positive.”

The initial reactions were somewhat limited, he said, because the pope did not answer questions of Jewish concern directly but rather “circumspectly.”

But “given the circumstances, one really could not have expected more, and I mean this in a positive sense,” the Jewish community leader said.

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