ROME (Jan. 19)
Poland has marked its second annual “Day of Judaism.” As part of the event, designed to foster interfaith dialogue and education, a number of Polish churches included the day’s theme in their services, and 1 million postcards bearing a photograph of Pope John Paul II together with Rome’s Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff were distributed in all the country’s parishes.
The cards of the pontiff and the chief rabbi bore a special prayer written for the occasion by the pope, who met with Toaff during a historic visit to Rome’s main synagogue in 1986.
“Support the Jewish people so that they can experience respect and love,” the prayer read.
This year’s Day of Judaism took place amid continuing tension over the erection of hundreds of crosses at the site of the Auschwitz death camp by militant Catholics defying the orders of both the Catholic hierarchy and the Polish government. Some of these militants have made openly anti-Semitic statements.
Despite the tension over the crosses, the day appeared to pass without incident.
Leaders of Poland’s Jewish community attended a Roman Catholic mass in the city of Wroclaw Sunday, and Catholic faithful there attended Jewish services.
Jerzy Kichler, a local Wroclaw Jewish leader who is also the president of the nationwide Union of Jewish Communities in Poland, alluded to the cross controversy in an address during services in the prayer house of the small Wroclaw Jewish community, located next to the city’s large neoclassical synagogue, which is currently under restoration.
Jews ask Christians to understand that the only way they can build graves for the victims of the Holocaust is to use “words and tears,” and therefore no disturbing symbols should be allowed, Kichler told a congregation that included Bishop Stanislaw Gadecki, head of the Polish Church Commission for Interreligious Dialogue, and scores of other Christians.
Earlier, Kichler and other Jewish representatives attended mass celebrated by Gadecki, who, in his sermon, called for cooperation between Catholics and Jews, whom he referred to as the “elder brethren” of Catholics, echoing statements by the pope.