Carmelite Nuns Soon Expected to Vacate Auschwitz Grounds

The ongoing conflict over the removal of a Carmelite convent from the grounds of the Auschwitz concentration camp may soon be resolved.

The Vatican issued a statement Wednesday saying that the Carmelite convent is “now in its final phase” of movement “away from the boundaries of the former Nazi death camp,” according to Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, international consultant for the American Jewish Committee.

Tanenbaum is former chairman of the international Jewish group that has been negotiating with the Vatican on this matter.

Two years ago, Jewish and Catholic officials signed an agreement stipulating that the nuns who are occupying the convent be relocated to a site outside the camp by February 1989.

A Catholic-Jewish conference that had been scheduled for February in Zurich was recently postponed because the nuns had not yet vacated the convent, as called for by that accord.

On Jan. 24, Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, the archbishop of Krakow in whose domain Auschwitz lies, issued a statement saying that “the new convent will be built away from the boundaries of the former Nazi camp, along with the interreligious center for prayer and information.

“The convent will be constructed on separate grounds inside the new interreligious center, so that it will be in the vicinity of the camp but well outside its boundaries.”

Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, president of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, sent Macharski a telegram Wednesday expressing his gratitude for the decision.

Tanenbaum welcomed Cardinal Macharski’s announcement “as a sign of good faith” which Willebrands “has demonstrated through this difficult crisis.”

The group designated to confer with the Vatican, known as the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, did not issue a statement at this time.

“We want to study all the texts closely, and we want to confer with our colleagues in Europe,” said Rabbi A. James Rudin, IJCIC chairman and international affairs director at AJCommittee.

There are five groups within IJCIC, all of whom must be consulted before an official statement is issued.

“This is a problem that does have the means for a resolution, and the means is the accord signed Feb. 27, 1987,” Rudin said. “It remains my hope that the Catholic partners to that accord will carry out that agreement.”

NEXT STORY