NEW YORK (Oct. 7)
Cardinal Jozef Glemp of Poland met here with 11 Jewish leaders Sunday and invited them to come to Warsaw in February to inaugurate a series of conferences to promote Catholic-Jewish understanding there.
Glemp, who heads the Catholic Church in Poland, said he would participate in the first session, indicating that he plans to get personally involved in efforts to ease the longstanding strains between Catholics and Jews in Poland.
But the primate would not agree to repeat in Poland a statement he made in Washington last month, after meeting with many of the same Jewish leaders, in which he said that remarks about Jews he made two years ago, in a now infamous homily, were based on “mistaken information.”
When the Jewish leaders, most of them rabbis, asked him Sunday to repeat that statement when he returns to his native country, Glemp responded with silence, leaving some dissatisfied.
“I expected something more concrete,” said Rabbi Leon Klenicki, director of interreligious affairs for the Anti-Defamation League. “Whatever he says condemning anti-Semitism here must be said in Poland, in Polish, otherwise it’s just tea and sympathy.”
Klenicki refused to meet with Glemp in Washington on Sept. 20, because the prelate had not explicitly repudiated the statements about Jews he made in the homily, among them, that Jews got peasants drunk, control the international news media and introduced communism to Poland.
Klenicki said he was attending the New York meeting out of respect for Cardinal John O’Connor, who hosted the gathering at New York parish offices behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral and who has a strong relationship with the Jewish community.
‘WAY BEYOND WHAT I EXPECTED’
Another participant who said that Glemp’s statements did not go far enough was Rabbi Mark Winer of the Jewish Community Center of White Plains, N.Y.
“He did not address all that needs to be,” said Winer, who represents the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis on the Synagogue Council of America.
Not everyone agreed with that assessment.
Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, a longtime participant in Catholic-Jewish dialogue, said that the promises made by Glemp to better Catholic-Jewish understanding in Poland “were excellent, way beyond what I expected.”
But, he acknowledged, the real outcome of the meetings with Glemp “will depend on what follow-up takes place.”
During Sunday’s meeting, Cardinal O’Connor urged Glemp to use his influence to persuade the Vatican to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, participants said.
They said that perhaps the most valuable result of Glemp’s 19-day, 14-city trip here was that he had the chance to see strong Catholic-Jewish relations at work.
“Now he has come to a new realization, since he has seen concretely what a model of these relationships should be,” said Rabbi Jack Bemporad of Lawrence, N.Y., who chairs the Synagogue Council’s interreligious affairs committee.
Gunther Lawrence, a spokesman for the Synagogue Council, likened the educational process Glemp had been involved in during his trip to “retraining.”
The Synagogue Council is composed of delegates from each of the three major movements of Jewish religious affiliation. It is the American secretariat for IJCIC, the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultation, which is formally charged with acting on behalf of the Jewish community in relations with the Vatican.
IJCIC TRIP POSTPONED
Those who participated in Sunday’s meeting, however, did so as individuals rather than as representatives of the Synagogue Council, which, as part of IJCIC, was not able to arrive at a consensus about whether or not to meet with Glemp during his U.S. tour. Some felt the cardinal had not sufficiently apologized for his past remarks before leaving Poland.
IJCIC’s chairman, Seymour Reich, resigned in protest over that internal battle, and as a result, an IJCIC trip to Warsaw, Prague and Budapest that was planned for later this month has been postponed. It may be at least partially supplanted by the February visit of those invited individually to Poland by Cardinal Glemp.
The purpose of the trip was to begin implementing the September 1990 Prague Declaration, a document signed by Vatican and IJCIC leaders that calls for measures to bring Catholics and Jews toward greater understanding of one another.
Though the details of the upcoming trip to Poland are still being worked out, Rabbi A. James Rudin, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, promised that it will be “systematic, comprehensive and complete.”
Reich, who felt strongly that Jews should not meet with Glemp during his American tour, said in a telephone interview Sunday that he was “distressed” that IJCIC was being circumvented by the issuing of invitations to individual Jews.
If Christian groups select the individual Jews with whom they want to meet, Reich said, “Jews are being selected who may give their host the kind of statements that are being sought” rather than statements that are representative of the entire Jewish community.
The diversity of Jewish opinion was evidenced Sunday when a group of 200 activists, organized by New York Rabbi Avi Weiss, staged a protest across the street from the parish compound as the Jewish leaders met with Glemp.
‘BENDING TO ANTI-SEMITISM’
The activists chanted, “Shame! Shame!” and held signs reading “Glemp: Stop Hiding Behind Your Cross,” and “Cardinal Glemp: Apologize.”
Weiss, a talli wrapped around his shoulders, vehemently criticized those who were meeting with the cardinal, accusing them of “bending to anti-Semitism.”
About 30 Catholics from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights staged a counter-demonstration across the street, calling for an end to what they said was Catholic-bashing.
One Catholic protester called Weiss a “Jewish Al Sharpton,” a reference to the black activist who has stirred up racial unrest in New York, most recently in Brooklyn’s heavily Hasidic Crown Heights neighborhood.
Glemp also met last week with Jews in Chicago, where he visited the Spertus College of Judaica and was quoted as saying: “Thank God our dialogue has begun, and we know only in God will it succeed.”