Work Will Begin Soon on Center to Replace Convent at Auschwitz

The removal of a Carmelite convent from the grounds of the former Auschwitz death camp now seems assured, if a report in the Belgian Catholic daily La Libre Belgique is correct.

The newspaper’s Warsaw correspondent reported that construction will begin next month on the ecumenical prayer and education center outside the Auschwitz perimeter, where the nuns now living in the convent will be relocated.

The land has been acquired, the architectural plans have been completed and work will start if the weather permits, the newspaper said, quoting sources close to the Polish Catholic Church. The report indicated that the winter in Poland has been very cold.

The new center is being financed through a special fund created by Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, the archbishop of Krakow, who has jurisdiction over the convent, the newspaper said. Money for the project is being donated in Western Catholic circles.

Macharski and three other European cardinals signed an agreement with world Jewish leaders in Geneva in February 1987 that the convent would be removed from the Auschwitz grounds within two years. When the deadline passed last year without steps taken to honor the pledge, Catholic-Jewish relations soured.

The Vatican declined to intervene until September, when it finally prodded the reluctant Polish Church to begin the relocation process.

But Jewish demands for a “symbolic gesture” of good intentions — removal of a giant wooden cross erected outside the convent — have gone unanswered, La Libre Belgique reported.

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