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Church Officials Ask Forgiveness for Anti-Semitic Sermon, Walesa Does Not

June 17, 1995

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ Despite protests from Jews and Roman Catholics, President Lech Walesa remained silent Saturday about an anti-Semitic sermon delivered by a priest at a Mass he attended.

A Jewish leader said he feared Walesa hoped to gain political capital by declining to condemn the sermon, in which the Rev. Henryk Jankowski appeared to blame Jews for Nazism and Communism.

Jankowski, whose friendship with Walesa dates to their common struggle against communism in the Solidarity movement, made the remarks last Sunday in the Gdansk church of St. Brigida.

He said Poles should no longer tolerate ``governments made up of people who fail to declare whether they come from Moscow or Israel.″

``The Star of David is implicated in the swastika as well in as the hammer and sickle,″ Jankowski said, urging Poles to ```wake up″ to the Jewish danger.

Churchgoers, including delegates to a Solidarity convention in Gdansk, reportedly applauded the priest’s comments.

Polish anti-Semitism remains substantial, although efforts have been made to bring Catholics and Jews together. Only a few thousand Jews still live in Poland, where 3 million Jews and 3 million other Poles died under the Nazis.

Arnold Mostowicz, a Jewish leader, said it was distressing that people representing the remnants of Solidarity, which symbolized Poland’s struggle for democracy, apparently shared the priest’s opinions.

``The symbol of Solidarity is being slandered today by those who have nothing in common with the former democratic movement,″ Mostowicz said.

``It is appalling and depressing that neither President Walesa nor any of those present protested,″ Mostowicz added in an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday.

Mostowicz said he feared that Walesa’s silence meant that he found Jankowski’s comments useful to his presidential campaign. Opinion polls show Walesa trailing far behind a communist candidate for the fall election.

A church committee for dialogue with Jews issued a statement Friday rejecting Jankowski’s remarks and begging forgiveness from ``those who feel offended.″

``A thinker who isn’t aware of what the swastika was and who Nazis were ... should not speak publicly in a country like Poland,″ the leading newspaper Rzeczpospolita said in an editorial.

Walesa’s office said he had no comment on the affair.

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