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>JN March 17, 1998, Vol. 6, No. 50

Arafat Says Peace Process Nearing its End

By IINS News Service

PLO Authority Chief Yasir Arafat told a gathering of Islamic leaders in Qatar that the peace process in the area is close to its death. Arafat blamed Israel's "arrogance" for the collapse of the peace effort in the region.


Vatican Apologizes for Failure to Save Jews

By Peggy Polk (VOA-Rome), IINS News Service

The Vatican has formally apologized for the failure of Roman Catholics to do more to save Jews from the Nazi Holocaust of World War 2. But the role of the wartime pope, Pius XII, remains a focus of controversy.

The Vatican offered its formal apology in a 14-page document entitled "We Remember, a Reflection on the Shoah." The document expresses deep regret for what it calls "errors and failures" of Roman Catholics who "were not strong enough to raise their voices in protest" over the killings of millions of Jews.

In 1987, Pope John Paul II had promised a statement to Jewish groups based on what role, if any, the church might have had in the Holocaust. But, by defending the role of Pius XII, the document appears certain to stir new controversy. Critics accuse the wartime pope of failing to speak out in behalf of the Jews because of his fear that the Nazis would retaliate against the Vatican. The document says many Jews, including the late Prime Minister Golda Meir, have credited Pius XII, with saving hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives.

Only hours earlier, Israel's chief rabbi expressed dismay after learning that the document would only refer in general terms to the church's attitude to the persecution. Chief Rabbi Meir Lau, himself a Holocaust survivor, demanded an "explicit apology for the shameful attitude of Pius XII at the time."

Instead, the document defended Pius XII for using his first encyclical, in 1939, at the start of his papacy, to warn "against theories which denied the unity of the human race and against the deification of the State," and which could all lead to a real "hour of darkness."

Pope John Paul II -- who has worked throughout his papacy to improve Catholic-Jewish relations -- makes no mention of the earlier pontiff in his introduction to the document. But he calls the Holocaust an "unspeakable iniquity" that will remain an "indelible stain" on the 20th century. And he expresses the hope that the document will "help to heal the wounds of past misunderstandings and injustices."

Issuing the document at a Vatican news conference, Cardinal Edward Cassidy, head of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, said it is "more than an apology." He called it an act of repentance.

The document put distance between the Holocaust and any Christian inspiration. "The Shoah (Holocaust) was the work of a thoroughly modern neo-pagan regime. Its anti-Semitism had its roots outside of Christianity and, in pursuing its aims, did not hesitate to oppose the church and persecute her members also," the document said.

The document did take to task "governments of some Western countries of Christian tradition, including some in North and South America for being more than hesitant to open their borders to the persecuted Jews."

John Paul, the document recalled, has acknowledged that while some Christians were courageous, "the spiritual resistance and concrete action of other Christians was not that which might have been expected.

"We cannot know how many Christians in countries occupied or ruled by the Nazi powers or their allies were horrified at the disappearance of their Jewish neighbors and yet were not strong enough to raise their voices in protest," the document said.

"We deeply regret the errors and failures of those sons and daughters of the church." The Vatican in 1993 agreed to have diplomatic ties with Israel, a landmark in John Paul's papacy. The last Vatican document of landmark proportions on Jewish relations was a 1965 statement that came out of the Second Vatican Council under Paul VI and said the Jews cannot be collectively blamed for the crucifixion of Jesus.


Hamas Issues Warning

By IINS News Service

The Hamas terrorist organization vowed that Israel would pay a high price if it went ahead with a hawkish cabinet minister's pledge to try again to assassinate a top Hamas leader.

National Infrastructure Minister General Ariel Sharon (ret.) said Saturday that he has informed Jordan's King Hussein that Israel intends to finish off the job that was bungled by the Mossad in Amman in September.

Sharon said he told King Hussein, "I said, 'You should know that we will liquidate Meshal. I can tell you that we won't do it on your soil."

Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, reminded Israel that the group had launched a deadly wave of suicide attacks after the assassination of its master bombmaker, Yecchi Ayyash, in January 1996. He said "If they assassinate Meshal it will cost them a very dear price."

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