Catholic Clergy Join Jewish Leaders in Criticizing Polish Cardinal’s Speech

Catholic officials joined Jewish leaders in the United States and Europe on Monday in condemning remarks made over the weekend by Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the highest-ranking Catholic official of Poland.

Glemp shocked even his supporters in the Solidarity movement by the language of a sermon he delivered Saturday admonishing Jews to stop protesting the presence of a convent on the grounds of the former Auschwitz death camp.

It was delivered in the Polish city of Czestochowa, at the shrine of the Black Madonna, Poland’s most revered icon, and contained echoes of classic Polish anti-Semitism.

He accused Jews, among other things, of using the mass media for anti-Polish propaganda and offending Poles and their sovereignty on the convent issue.

Even the Solidarity daily Gazeta Wyborcza, normally supportive of the Catholic Church, found Glemp’s remarks offensive.

“The words used by the primate threaten to be deeply painful to many descendants and brothers of Holocaust victims,” the Polish newspaper said.

Especially on the eve of the start of World War II, “we listened to these words with regret and pain,” the Solidarity paper added.

In Paris, a prelate of the French Catholic Church made a strong, if indirect, response to Glemp’s remarks.

It was contained in an article written by Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, the archbishop of Paris, that appeared Monday in the daily newspaper Le Monde.

The article included a stinging denunciation of Nazi crimes and a reiteration of the meaning of Jewish martyrdom.

‘LET SILENCE RETURN TO AUSCHWITZ’

Cardinal Lustiger adopted an indirect approach so as to express his views without breaking or being perceived to break Church discipline, French Catholic circles said.

Lustiger made no specific mention of the controversy over the Carmelite convent at Auschwitz or of Glemp’s homily with its heavy anti-Semitic overtones.

“Whether we like it or not,” the French cardinal wrote, “the center of this tragedy (the Holocaust) is the election of Israel (as the chosen people) and the saving of humanity.”

Lustiger then boldly referred to his own Jewish origin. He was born Jewish but raised as a Catholic after his parents perished in the Holocaust.

“I am one of those who should and could have been one of them (the Jewish martyrs). We were doomed to the same annihilation, but we were spared. Sometimes we knew how and why, sometimes we did not.”

Lustiger said he did not believe “that Auschwitz symbolizes a madness without a past and without consequences. We should search into the past and also examine all that followed as it is not enough that the Nazi empire collapsed.

“This does not mean that the temptations which caused it have disappeared.”

The bishop of the French city of Evreux, Msgr. Jacques Gaillot, who generally favors the Palestinian cause, stated flatly that Glemp’s homily “hurts and harms our Jewish brethren.”

He favored relocation of the convent “to let silence return to Auschwitz.”

Glemp’s homily also was attacked by two French Jewish leaders, Theo Klein and Jean Kahn, respectively the past and current president of CRIF, the Representative Council of Jewish Organizations in France.

‘MAKES OUR WORK MUCH HARDER’

In Rome, Jewish leaders were full of praise for Pope John Paul II’s eloquent condemnation of anti-Semitism over the weekend.

Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff of Rome and Tulia Zevi, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, saw it as an antidote to Glemp’s harsh words.

In New York, Rabbi A. James Rudin said that despite Glemp’s remarks, a planned meeting between U.S. Jewish leaders and a top Vatican representative would take place in early September. But he said the speech is “going to be part of the climate” affecting discussions on the convent.

Glemp “revived some of the worst anti-Jewish canards of the past,” said Rudin, who is chairman of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, which coordinates dialogue with the Catholic Church.

“For those of us who are working with Polish Catholics, it makes our work much harder,” said Rudin, who also is American Jewish Committee’s national interreligious affairs director.

(Contributing to this report were JTA correspondent Ruth E. Gruber in Rome and Steve Lipman, a staff writer for The New York Jewish Week.)

NEXT STORY