Polish Catholic bishop withdraws Holocaust remark and apologises

By Ecumenical News International
February 9, 2010

A Polish Roman Catholic bishop who accused Jews of "inventing the Holocaust" has apologised and withdrawn accusations against the news agency which published the interview - writes Jonathan Luxmoore.

"My unfortunate opinion resulted from a short-cut in thinking and didn't express my views," said Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, who chairs the Polish church's Concordat Commission. "It was not my intention either to falsify history or to attribute bad will to anyone."

The 75-year-old bishop, who was Secretary-General of Poland's Bishops Conference from 1993 to 1998, drew flak after he was the quoted in a 25 January 2010 interview with Italy's Pontifex-Roma news agency. The interview quoted him as accusing Jews of "manipulating history" by claiming to be the only nation "marked out for extermination."

He originally said the Catholic news agency had manipulated his remarks into a denial of the Holocaust and would not be allowed to interview him again.

"I recalled in the interview that it wasn't only Jews who suffered in the [Second World] War and were set apart by the Germans for destruction," Bishop Pieronek told Poland's Polska daily newspaper on 26 January.

The comments came shortly before the 27 January International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was marked in Poland with ceremonies at the former Nazi-run Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, attended by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, foreign ambassadors and camp survivors.

The commemorations were marred by the spraying of anti-Semitic graffiti on a Jewish community building in Wroclaw.

The head of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, said it should be remembered the bishop had expressed his views "in the centre of a murdered Jewish civilisation of one million people."

"We find it unacceptable that an important religious figure in Poland, only a few days away from International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is capable of making such inflammatory and untrue remarks," the Jewish leader said in a statement.

At the same time the director of Pontifex-Roma, Bruno Volpe, insisted that the interview had been correctly transcribed, and said in a statement on 27 January that he had asked the news agency’s lawyer to consider legal steps against Bishop Pieronek.

The bishop said he had been wrong to accuse the news agency of manipulating his remarks.

"The authors of the idea of exterminating the Jews and the executors of this unparalleled genocide were Hitlerite Germans. I sincerely apologise to Bruno Volpe [the journalist who conducted the interview] personally and all who felt hurt by my unfortunate, but unintended, statement."

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

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