Jewish leaders and Catholic bishops unite against prejudice

Jewish leaders have joined Catholic bishops in Poland to urge Catholics and Jews to rebuild dialogue and fight prejudice.

The Polish Bishops’ Conference describes anti-Jewish rhetoric in Poland as being “contradictory to the principles of Christian love of one’s neighbour.”

A group of Polish rabbis responded, saying they “deeply appreciate” their condemnation of anti-Semitism.

They have vowed to “continue to speak out against analogous attitudes among Jews”.

They were referring to anti-Polish sentiment voiced by Israelis and American Jews recently.

Bad feelings erupted in late January over a new Polish law criminalising anyone who blames Poland for the Nazi Holocaust.

Anyone who “publicly and against the facts attributes to the Polish nation or Polish state responsibility or co-responsibility for Nazi crimes,” or “flagrantly reduces in any way the responsibility of the real perpetrators” may go to jail for up to three years.

Archbishop Wojciech Polak, Poland’s Catholic primate, says anti-Semitism is “a moral evil and a sin”.

He says attempts to divide people or pit them against each other “in a nationalistic context should be totally censured”.

Another Polish archbishop, Stanislaw Gadecki, says hostility belongs “neither to Christian nature nor to the nature of Judaism.”

He urged prayers to ensure “the great good achieved by common efforts of Poles and Jews” was not squandered.

“We need a spirit of peace to mitigate these extreme positions and show there’s more uniting than dividing us,” he said.

The Polish bishops also said St John Paul II had urged Christian nations to “uproot from their mentality all unjust prejudices about Jews and other symptoms of anti-Semitism.”

Poland’s new law has been condemned as “baseless” by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Jerusalem-based Yad Vashem Memorial Institute.

The Institute says the law will impede Holocaust research and debate.


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