Christian churches in Hungary have together issued a statement calling the Holocaust “the most shameful event of the 20th century.”
The declaration was issued by the Hungarian Catholic Bishops and the Ecumenical council of Hungarian Churches on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Holocaust in Hungary.
The statement was published Wednesday in the Hungarian media.
The statement asks forgiveness in the name of Christians who “failed to act against the deportation, persecution and killing of 600,000 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.”
What happened to the Jews of Hungary was “not only the responsibility of the representatives of evil also the members of the Christian churches, who did not raise their voices against the deportation and killing of the mass of Jews in Hungary.
“The Holocaust was the biggest shame of the 20th century,” the document says.
The 50th anniversary, the document says, is the occasion for all churches in Hungary to pay tribute to the memory of the victims.
“The Holocaust is regarded – based on the Bible – as a shameful sin,” the document says.
The statement was praised by rabbis here and abroad.
It was called an important document by Rabbis Joseph Schweitzer, head of the Budapest Rabbinical Seminary, and Peter Feldmajer, president of the Hungarian Jewish community.
Rabbi Mordechai Piron, a former chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Force as well as a former chief rabbi Zurich, in a statement published in the Hungarian press, called the declaration “a statement of international importance.”
In an interview with the Hungarian News Agency, Piron said the statement “contributes to the creation of an atmosphere of reciprocal understanding between Jews and Christians.”
The Catholic Church in Hungary issued a similar statement on its own in October, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Nazi takeover of Hungary.
Laszlo Paskai, archbishop of the Catholic Church in Hungary, expressed his sorrow over the events of 50 years ago.
Local observers are saying that it is not by chance that this latest church statement was issued on the eve of a meeting here of the Council on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the so-called Helsinki Commission on human rights.
U.S. President Clinton and Secretary of State Warren Christopher will be attending the conference this weekend, along with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
It is expected that the Middle East will be on the agenda.
Meanwhile, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and Memorial in Jerusalem recently awarded its Righteous Gentile award to 10 Hungarian Christians for aiding Jews during the Holocaust.
Since diplomatic ties were resumed between Hungary and Israel in 1989, more than 170 Hungarians have been given the Yad Vashem award of Righteous Among the Nations.