The Associated Press
MAY 26. 1994
VATICAN CITY (AP) --------- The Vatican distanced itself Thursday from
a document drafted by German and Polish bishops that acknowledges the Roman Catholic Church fostered centuries of anti-Semitism and failed to stop the Holocaust.
The document, according to reports from Israel, would go well beyond any statements the Vatican has made in recent decades, recommending
"an express confession ... of co-responsibility
and guilt for the Holocaust."
Rabbi David Rosen, an Israeli negotiator with the Vatican, said the Vatican gave the report on the draft document to Israel during talks this week in Jerusalem. His office provided a copy to The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The Vatican seemed surprised by its release. A Vatican spokesman said the document was an incomplete draft being prepared by Roman Catholic bishops in Germany and in Poland and has not been approved by either body.
"Naturally it is not in any way a draft of a document prepared by the Holy See, but rather by the Polish and German Episcopal Conferences," said Joaquin Navarro, the chief spokesman for the Vatican.
Pope John Paul II has repeatedly denounced anti-Semitism and forged diplomatic ties with Israel, but he has always defended previous popes against accusations they were silent about the Holocaust.
Rosen decribed the document Wednesday as "mind-boggling" and said "its essence is extraordinary." If adopted by the church, it would significantly improve the credibility of the Vatican among Jews.
The document asserts that "the Church as a whole offered no effective resistance to the Nazi persecution and extermination."
The report also says the document will declare that "the tradition of theological and church anti-Judaism was an important element on the way toward the Holocaust."
Navarro acknowledged the Vatican is working on a document on anti-Semitism.
The work grew out of a meeting with Jewish leaders in 1987 meant to calm Jewish anger after the pope met with then-Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, who has been accused of complicity in Nazi war crimes.
John Paul was the first pope to visit a synagogue, paid homage to victims of Nazism in visits to death camps in Poland and Austria and pushed forward the agreement in December to extend diplomatic recognition to Israel, healing a long-standing wound in Catholic-Jewish relations.
But he has consistently defended previous popes, including at a meeting with Jewish leaders in Miami in September 1987.