Pope Staying out of Dispute over Convent at Auschwitz

Pope John Paul II has removed himself from the dialogue over the controversial convent at Auschwitz, according to leaders of the Simon Wiesenthal Center who met with Vatican officials Tuesday.

“It is now clear to us that there is no progress, the convent is not going to move, and the pope is not interested in the matter,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said in a telephone interview from Rome.

The pope’s refusal to get involved, Hier said, “apparently leaves the decision in the hands of local officials in Poland who, to date, have not shown the willingness to move quickly to resolve this crisis.”

The Wiesenthal Center officials met with Monsignor Luigi Gatti, head of political external affairs at the Vatican, and Father Daucount of the Vatican Secretariat for Religious Relations With the Jews.

They also met with the Vatican’s Polish ambassador, Josef Wiegacz.

The Wiesenthal Center is one of many Jewish organizations that have registered their objections to the continuing presence of the Carmelite convent on the grounds where millions of Jews were murdered.

Polish Catholic authorities had agreed to move the convent by February 1989, but did not honor that commitment.

Protest in the Jewish community has been heightened recently by the demonstration by seven New York Jewish activists, who entered the convent last Friday to protest the convent.

The group was beaten and dragged off the convent grounds by workers there, while Polish police reportedly stood by without intervening.

A protest over the treatment of the demonstrators was lodged Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

In a letter to Jan Kinast, the Polish ambassador to the United States, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman called for “the apprehension and punishment of those responsible” for the beating of the demonstrators.

Foxman described the incident as “an intolerable reversion to the old Poland of hatred, of pogroms.”

In New York on Tuesday, there was a small demonstration in front of the Vatican’s U.N. observer mission.

A group of 15 people, including relatives of those who protested Friday at Auschwitz, chanted, “Keep your promise, move the convent” and “Shame on the Vatican,” as they marched outside the mission.

The protesters attempted to deliver a formal letter to Archbishop Renato Martino requesting the removal of the convent, but they were refused entry.

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