Ijcic Silent on Convent, Chooses Quiet Diplomacy

The governing board of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations has determined that “the time has come for some quiet non-flamboyant diplomacy” between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community over the issue of the Auschwitz convent, IJCIC member Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum said Tuesday.

Tanenbaum, the immediate past chairman of IJCIC, said that it was in the interest of such diplomacy that the group chose not to issue a public statement following an emergency meeting Tuesday.

But IJCIC’s current chairman, Rabbi A. James Rudin, emphasized that the decision not to release a statement did not mean the organization was remaining passive.

“We are pursuing our international Jewish and Christian contacts so that we can move to a resolution of the Carmelite convent problem,” Rudin said.

Twelve members of the governing board of IJCIC, the primary vehicle of communication between the world Jewish community and the Vatican, met Tuesday to discuss the recent developments surrounding the controversial Carmelite convent at Auschwitz, among other issues.

The meeting came a week after the archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, announced he was canceling a 1987 agreement reached between Jewish and Catholic leaders. The leaders had agreed to build an interreligious center away from the actual site of the death camp, to which the convent would be moved.

Macharski’s announcement sparked loud protests from a number of Jewish organizations.

Tanenbaum said that at the IJCIC meeting, he briefed his fellow members on conversations he had over the past week with Catholic officials close to Macharski.

‘NOT A PERMANENT BREAK’

He said that he had been told in those conversations that Macharski’s statement did not indicate that the Polish cardinal advocated a “permanent break” in relations with Jews.

Instead, he described Macharski’s statement on the interreligious center as an “emotional reaction” to last month’s demonstration by seven New York Jews, including Bronx Rabbi Avraham Weiss.

“The entry of Rabbi Avi Weiss, by climbing over fences surrounding the convent and trying to get inside the convent — which to Catholics is the holy of holies — resulted in (Macharski’s) being deeply upset,” Tanenbaum said, also pointing out that the incident put Macharski under increased pressure from Polish Catholics to keep the convent where it is.

Weiss’s action, and demonstrations by other groups, followed the passage of the February deadline by which Macharski had agreed the convent would be moved.

In another apparent reference to Weiss, Tanenbaum said that “nothing is to be gained if we allow the present situation to be dominated by self-appointed Jewish leaders from the streets.”

Such leaders, he said, “claim to represent the Jewish people but act out their own style by attacking and condemning the Catholic Church, the Vatican and the papacy.”

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