Menu JTA Search

Rabbi Again Sues Polish Cardinal for Slander in Convent Incident

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

Cardinal Jozef Glemp, head of Poland’s Catholic Church, is again being sued for defamation by Avi Weiss, a New York activist rabbi.

Glemp, on his first trip back to the United States since 1991, was visiting Polish communities in the Seattle area on Oct. 29 when he was served with legal papers related to Weiss’ lawsuit.

Weiss contends that Glemp slandered him in a 1989 homily.

In that sermon, the Polish prelate said that the Bronx rabbi had been trying to kill a group of Carmelite nuns living in a convent at the perimeter of the Auschwitz death camp when Weiss and six followers demonstrated there in July 1989.

The convent’s presence at Auschwitz, where an estimated 1.6 million Jews were slaughtered during the Holocaust, was long the source of tension in international Catholic-Jewish relations.

After years of delicate negotiations, a new convent was built nearby, off the death camp grounds, and the nuns moved out last summer.

The Auschwitz convent imbroglio still awaits its final conclusion, however. The Carmelite convent’s mother superior subleased the vacated building to a third party, apparently contravening instructions from the Polish Catholic Church.

The matter is working its way through Polish courts.

Weiss first sued Glemp for libel in 1989, but the suit was dismissed in March 1992, by a U.S. District Court judge who ruled that the legal documents had been improperly served to the Polish primate.

A separate slander suit Weiss brought against Glemp, this one in Poland in November 1989, was dismissed.

Weiss said in an interview that he is “still living with (Glemp’s) slander wherever I go. In the non-Jewish community I hear about it” all the time.

“All I’m asking for is an apology,” he said.

Weiss, a longtime activist on behalf of Soviet Jewry and other issues, is national president of a direct-action group called the Coalition for Jewish Concerns-Amcha.

He plans to return to Poland next spring, to protest what he says is the presence of a church on the grounds of the Birkenau death camp.

But “because of Glemp I am viewed as a tyrant, as a violent man in Poland. The record has to be made straight,” Weiss said.

According to Steven Hemmat, Weiss’ attorney, Glemp has 20 days from the date he was served to respond to the lawsuit.

So far, said Hemmat, there has been no response.

NEXT STORY