NEW YORK — Jewish leaders are postponing a much-publicized meeting with Vatican officials to discuss Catholic actions during the Holocaust, but they differ on the reasons for the delay.
"There is widespread concern that the Vatican is approaching this meeting without an honest assessment of its own actions during the Holocaust," said Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, of the gathering that was to have taken place Dec. 14-16 in Washington.
The meeting between the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations and the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews probably will be held early next year.
Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, director of international relations for the American Jewish Committee, said the postponement was not meant to show displeasure with Vatican actions.
He said the controversy over the September meeting of Jewish leaders with Pope John Paul II in Miami had "siphoned off so much attention and energy" that more time was needed to prepare for the Washington gathering.
Steinberg said the Jews called for the delay because they are unhappy with several developments:
- What they regard as an effort by the Pope to downplay Pope Pius XII's inaction during the Holocaust.
- The failure of the Vatican to make progress in honoring a commitment to move a convent at the former concentration camp at Auschwitz.
- Reports that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told an interviewer that Christians should pursue the "theological line" that Judaism finds fulfillment in Christianity.
Tanenbaum said the decision to delay was made before Ratzinger's comments were published.
Jews had threatened to cancel the Miami meeting because the Pope received Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, accused of complicity with Nazi war crimes.