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Polish Cardinal Expresses Regret Over Remarks That Offended Jews

September 20, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Roman Catholic Cardinal Jozef Glemp of Poland met with a dozen American Jewish leaders Friday and expressed regret over a three-year-old sermon that many Jews regard as anti-Semitic.

″I have learned that certain of my own statements may have caused pain to the Jewish community and were seen as fostering stereotypes of Jews and Judaism, but were in many aspects based on mistaken information,″ Glemp said in a statement.

Adding that Polish Catholics also had suffered pain, Glemp told the Jewish leaders:

″I regret sincerely that this unfortunate situation occurred and recommit myself to working with you now and in the future, in the spirit of our pastoral letter, to combating anti-Semitism at its very roots.″

Glemp aroused an international furor in August 1989, when he criticized Jewish demonstrators from New York who protested the presence of a Carmelite convent at the site of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, where an estimated 1,350,000 million Jews were exterminated during World War II.

In his sermon, Glemp accused Jews of attacking Poland’s sovereignty and fomenting anti-Polish feelings. He invoked images of Jews spreading communism and causing alcoholism among Polish peasants. He also suggested that the Jewish protesters had tried to destroy the convent and murder its nuns.

On Thursday, before he left Warsaw for a two-week visit to the United States, Glemp told an interviewer that he saw no need to apologize for his reaction to what he regarded as an ″illegal″ attack on the convent.

″Apologizing is a Christian gesture, and if one feels that one hurt someone, then one should apologize for it,″ he said. ″... There is nothing to apologize about from my perspective.″

At the outset of his tour of more than a dozen U.S. cities, Glemp sought to defuse the controversy at an extraordinary, two-hour confrontation with Jewish leaders at the headquarters of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, which arranged the meeting.

Glemp never uttered a formal apology for his controversial remarks Friday. But Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum of New York and several other Jewish leaders who attended the meeting suggested that an apology wasn’t necessary.

They noted that Glemp had previously denounced anti-Semitism and said he had shown willingness Friday to take part in a future dialogue between Catholics and Jews in Poland to overcome old stereotypes and prejudices.

″We believe the Polish Catholic Church and Cardinal Glemp have begun to demonstrate in serious ways not only a change of attitude but a change of behavior,″ Tanenbaum told a news conference after the meeting.

Asked if he avoided the word ″apology″ because it might mean humiliation, Glemp replied, ″I don’t consider this as humiliation if you arrive at a deeper truth.″

Glemp said his widely publicized pastoral letter in January was written in a spirit of repentance and reconciliation.

″We take that seriously,″ Tanenbaum said, ″and we take Cardinal Glemp at his word.″

Before the news conference, Tanenbaum told reporters that ″cardinals never apologize″ but that most of the Jewish leaders, with a few dissenters whom he refused to name, accepted Glemp’s statement as an apology.

When he arrived for the meeting, Glemp brushed past 10 Jewish protesters led by Rabbi Avraham Weiss of the Bronx, N.Y., without acknowledging their demands for an apology. They sang Hebrew hymns and held signs reading ″Cardinal Glemp - Shame 3/8″ and ″Cardinal Glemp - Apologize.″

The Jewish delegation to the meeting with Glemp included prominent leaders of the Conservative and Reform congregations of American Jewry. They included Rabbi A. James Rudin, director of interreligious affairs of the American Jewish Committee; Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice president of United Synagogue of America; Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, director of interreligious affairs of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and Philip Baum of the American Jewish Congress.

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