Jewish group questions WWII Polish cardinal’s beatification

A Jewish group is questioning moves to beatify the wartime head of Poland’s Catholic Church.

The American Jewish Congress is reacting to the Pope’s signature last Monday on a decree recognising the “heroic virtues” of Cardinal August Hlond (1881-1948).

Hlond was the highest ranking church official in Poland from 1926 to 1948. He is credited with keeping the church strong and protecting its autonomy during the Nazi occupation and postwar communism.

Hlond’s cause was recommended by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The American Jewish Congress is contradicting the views held by the Congregation.

It says Hlond fostered anti-Semitism and refused to help endangered Jews.

“While realising the Holy See has its own criteria for the cause of canonisation, such a step will be perceived within the Jewish community and beyond as an expression of approval (or at least absence of condemnation) of his extremely negative approach,” Rabbi David Rosen says.

Rosen is the Congress’s international inter-religious director.

He cited a 1936 pastoral letter Hlond wrote three years before the Nazi invasion. The letter urges Poles to stay away from the “harmful moral influence of Jews” and to boycott Jewish stores and stalls in the marketplace.

Hlond’s letter also alleged Jews were perpetrating fraud, usury and prostitution, and corrupting Catholic morals by “spreading pornography.”

He went on to accuse Jews of “waging war against the Catholic Church” and acting as “the vanguard of atheism, the Bolshevik movement and revolutionary activity,” and warned that a “Jewish problem” would continue “as long as Jews remain Jews.”

He then urged Polish Catholics to shun Jewish publications and to stay away from their “anti-Christian culture.”

“While he [Hlond] did temper his remarks with an admission that ‘not all Jews are this way,’ and forbade assaults on Jews or attacks on their property, he nevertheless condemned Judaism and Jewry for rejecting Jesus and advocated a virtual boycott of Jewish establishments,” Rosen says.

After the war, the Congress says Hlond refused to meet with Polish Jewish leaders over concerns they had about accusations of ritual murder ahead of Passover and the danger of pogroms.

On July 4, 1946, a mob attacked the building of the Jewish Committee in Kielce, leaving 42 Jews dead and more than 40 wounded.

“Cardinal Hlond held a press conference but he did not condemn the pogrom nor urge Poles to stop murdering Jews.

“Rather, he pointed out that the Jews were all communists or supporters of communism and that the pogrom was their own fault,” the Congress says.

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