BUDAPEST (Aug. 18)
Pope John Paul II, holding an unprecedented meeting Sunday evening with a delegation of Hungarian Jews, condemned anti-Semitism and racism as “sins against God.”
The pope also said there is “a risk of a resurgence and spread of anti-Semitic feelings, of which certain disquieting signs are to be seen today, and of which we have experienced the most frightful results in the past.”
The pontiff’s second denunciation of anti-Semitism in a week was made to 10 representatives of the Jewish community during a closed-door meeting at the residence of the Vatican’s ambassador to Budapest.
But John Paul, making the first papal visit to Hungary in nearly 1,000 years, disappointed some members of the Hungarian Jewish community, who had wanted him to pay tribute at a memorial to Hungarian Jews killed in the Holocaust.
Although the Jewish leaders who met with the pontiff said the meeting was “beyond all of our expectations,” many members of the Jewish community thought it was “quite natural” that the pope condemned anti-Semitism, and said it would have been much better if he had paid tribute at the memorial, which stands behind the Dohany Synagogue.
The pope’s statement Sunday night that “anti-Semitism and all forms of racism must be considered as sins against God and humanity” echoed a declaration he made last week to throngs of Catholics in Czestochowa, Poland.
World Jewish leaders have urged Catholic Church officials to make such statements in light of the resurgence of anti-Semitism in post-Communist Eastern Europe.
CHURCH’S HOLOCAUST ROLE RAISED
The Budapest meeting was doubly historic because a chief rabbi in Hungary, one of the delegates, used the opportunity to blame the Hungarian Catholic Church for allowing the Jews during World War II to be carried off to the Auschwitz death camp.
Rabbi Peter Kardos also criticized the Vatican’s failure to recognize Israel.
Speaking in the name of the Hungarian Jewish community, which presently numbers between 80,000 and 100,000, Kardos blamed the leadership of the Hungarian Catholic Church for not condemning the transports of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews to concentration camps during World War II.
It was the fist time that the Hungarian Jewish community leadership publicly dared to condemn the role of the Catholic Church during the Holocaust.
The rabbi expressed hope that “from now on, the place of the Jewish martyrs in Auschwitz will be undisturbed,” in reference to the presence of Carmelite nuns at a convent there.
The pope did not react to the words, noting instead the “courage of those Catholic priests who raised their voices, even in those times.”
The chief rabbi expressed hope that the pope’s visit would open a new phase in the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jews living in Hungary. And he said the pope’s visit would “contribute to a better contact between the Vatican and the Jewish state.”