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Polish Cardinal’s Decision to Cancel U.S. Visit Comes As Relief to Jews

The decision of Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the Polish primate, to cancel his scheduled visit later this month to a number of U.S. cities was greeted with sighs of relief from American Jewish leaders over the weekend.

Glemp’s remarks regarding the controversial Carmelite convent at Auschwitz have deeply angered and offended Jews.

Glemp, the highest-ranking Catholic official in Poland, accused Jews last month of threatening Polish sovereignty and using their alleged influence in the mass media to spread anti-Polish sentiments.

He also called for the agreement between Polish and Jewish leaders for the relocation of the convent to be renegotiated, claiming that those who drew up the 1987 agreement were “incompetent.”

Glemp had been set to arrive in Chicago on Sept. 21. He also had planned to visit Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Boston and Washington. The cancellation of his visit was announced Saturday by the Polish press agency.

Jewish groups in several of these cities made their displeasure with Glemp clear to the local Catholic establishment, and declined invitations to participate in interfaith activities in which Glemp was to have taken part.

In view of the strained atmosphere, canceling the visit “was a wise decision,” said Rabbi A. James Rudin, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee.

Rudin said that if Glemp had arrived in the United States on Sept. 21 as scheduled, his presence would have “exacerbated tensions between Catholics and Jews.”

WEISS WILL PRESS LAWSUIT

He added that the visit’s cancellation indicated the Catholic hierarchy recognized that Jews had been offended by Glemp’s remarks. “Clearly, I think, they heard our concerns,” Rudin said.

Rabbi Avraham Weiss called the cancellation “a victory for the forces of decency.”

But Weiss, who is religious leader of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in the Bronx, said he still intends to sue Glemp for slander.

Weiss charges that he was defamed when Glemp implied that he and six other demonstrators at the Auschwitz convent on July 14 intended to kill the nuns living in the convent. Weiss and his fellow protesters were doused with water, beaten and dragged from the grounds by Polish workers.

Weiss has retained attorney Alan Dershowitz to pursue the matter through the Polish courts and within the Catholic Church.

The Bronx rabbi asserted that the threat of a lawsuit in the United States was a factor in Glemp’s decision not to travel there.

Rabbi Henry Michelman, executive director of the Synagogue Council of America, said that “a lot of unnecessary emotions and confrontations will be avoided” by the cancellation of the visit.

“This will give everyone a chance to cool down and calm down,” he said.

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