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Respected Polish Church Leader Says Glemp is Not Anti-semitic

Bishop Henryk Muszynski, the respected head of a Polish Catholic committee for interfaith dialogue, has issued a statement defending Cardinal Jozef Glemp against accusations of anti-Semitism.

But his defense finds Jews less than entirely convinced.

Muszynski’s statement, published in Polish newspapers Monday, says the cardinal has been the victim of “tendentious distortion” because some of his remarks cited as anti-Semitic were taken out of context.

Muszynski, who heads the Polish Episcopate Committee for Dialogue With Judaism, praised the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland as the force behind many positive developments in Jewish-Catholic dialogue there.

Jewish officials in Warsaw said some points made by the bishop were valid.

But one Jewish leader said he was taken aback by Muszynski’s tough language and apparent lack of context, in defending the patently anti-Semitic remarks Glemp delivered in a homily at a monastery two years ago.

“It is surprising that Bishop Muszynski speaks as if he did not understand why Jews were offended by Glemp’s homily,” said Stanislaw Krajewski, Polish representative of the American Jewish Congress, in a telephone call from Warsaw.

In the homily that gained world notoriety, Glemp accused Jews of “getting peasants drunk,” introducing communism to Poland and acting as if they were better than anyone else.

‘FRAGMENTS’ TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT

Glemp spoke at the height of the controversy over the convent set up by Carmelite nuns on the grounds of the former Auschwitz death camp.

He was furious with a group of Jewish protesters, led by New York activist Rabbi Avi Weiss, who scaled the convent walls. Glemp had implied in his talk that the Jewish demonstrators had intended to physically harm the nuns.

The furor over the anti-Semitic content of Glemp’s discourse forced the cardinal to cancel a trip to the United States he had planned for the fall of 1989.

Glemp, who now plans to visit the United States next month, issued a conciliatory statement dated Aug. 12, though released to the media only on Aug. 23. Jewish reaction to it ranged from welcoming to disdainful.

Glemp’s attitude toward Jews has long been suspect, but not Muszynski’s, who is well regarded in Jewish-Catholic dialogue.

Muszynski said that the attacks on Glemp for his August 1989 homily were based on fragments taken out of context.

“The starting point of various attacks are from fragments of a homily delivered by Cardinal Glemp on Aug. 26, 1989 at Jasna Gora monastery in the context of the growing conflict around the convent of Carmelite sisters at Auschwitz,” Muszynski wrote.

“To quote only selected fragments and ignore other positive ones, also ignoring later utterances explaining the real intention of the author of the homily, is a tendentious distortion of the proper sense of his words.”

Muszynski said Glemp, as head of the Polish episcopate, was deeply involved in efforts at Jewish-Catholic dialogue.

He mentioned the unprecedented pastoral letter condemning anti-Semitism issued by the episcopate in January, which was read aloud in churches all over Poland.

A DESIRE TO OVERCOME PREJUDICES

“Together with gaining freedom and sovereignty by the Polish republic, its authorities, in the name of the nation, undertook the building and normalization of relations between Poland and the State of Israel,” Muszynski wrote.

“This reflects the deep desire to overcome all barriers, stereotypes and prejudices, and the will to better learn about and respect the respective identities.”

A Jewish observer in Warsaw said Muszynski’s statement made “several valid points.”

He said it was “indeed true” that the Polish Church has made many “noteworthy efforts” to understand Judaism and Jews.

“It is also true that these achievements are to the credit of Cardinal Glemp, who is the head of the Polish Church and signatory of the pastoral letter,” the observer said.

“These achievements and developments could be seen as an indirect repudiation of the words that he uttered in the homily of August 1989.”

Still, the observer added, while “Muszynski is right that Glemp should take credit for many developments, it is unfortunate that Glemp has not made a stronger retraction of his homily.

“Positive developments should be welcome, but cannot be a sufficient substitute for addressing fragments of the homily that Jews consider offensive.”

Meanwhile, Jewish officials in Warsaw welcomed a letter by Glemp to Detroit Archbishop Arthur Maida, who will be his host in the United States, retracting the allegation that Weiss intended to harm the nuns at Auschwitz.

But they expressed dismay that the letter, publicized in the United States last Friday, had still not been disclosed to the Polish public by the middle of this week.

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