Shamir’s Party Says Pope Should Not Meet with Waldheim
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s right-wing Likud bloc issued a protest Friday of the scheduled meeting between Pope John Paul II and President Kurt Waldheim of Austria, citing Waldheim’s alleged Nazi past.
Jewish organizations in the United States, Italy and other countries also have objected to the meeting, planned for June 25 at the Vatican. It will be Waldheim’s first state visit since he was elected president last June.
The Israeli government, a coalition of the right-wing Likud bloc and socialist Labor Parth, had condemned the papal decision Thursday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ehud Gol said it ″surprised the Jewish world and the state of Israel. We wonder what were its motives, and we condemn the decision.″
Waldheim, former U.N. secretary-general, has been accused by various groups of participating in the deportation of Jews and Yugoslav and Greek partisans to Nazi concentration camps while he was serving as a lieutenant in the German army in the Balkans during World War II.
Waldheim has denied wrongdoing, but earlier this year the U.S. Justice Department banned him from visiting America.
A Vatican spokesman, Joaquin Navarro, said Friday Waldheim had ″repeatedly expressed the desire″ that his first official visit be with the pope at the Vatican.
″It was not an initiative of the Holy See,″ Navarro said. He added ″there can be no doubts″ about the pope’s attitude toward the Nazi era and said that throughout John Paul’s pontificate he has condemned Nazi atrocities and the persecution of the Jews.
Italian newspapers have said Italian officials won’t meet with Waldheim, on grounds that the nation is still governed by a caretaker Cabinet as various parties attempt to form a coalition government following elections on Sunday and Monday.
Likud spokesman Ronit Ekstein said the organization sent a telegram to John Paul II saying: ″You should admit your mistake and change your mind. This is a true test of your moral mission.. .. Hundreds of millions of people in the world are watching you and expecting this of you.″
Another telegram, sent by Rome’s Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff and Giacomo Saban, president of the city’s Jewish community of 16,000, said, ″The Jews of Rome, having learned with vivid regret the news of Waldheim’s visit to the Vatican, express their disillusionment and protest.
″The noble speech to the Jews of Warsaw is gravely contradicted by granting a visit to a person compromised with the Nazi regime and seriously suspected of crimes against the civilian population and the Jewish community.″ John Paul met with representatives of Warsaw’s small Jewish community during his visit to his Polish homeland earlier this month.
According to reference books, Poland had a Jewish population of more than 3.1 million before Germany invaded the country in World War II, and only about 100,000 survived the Nazi killings and death camps. Many of the survivors left Poland after the war.