VATICAN CITY – The Vatican on Thursday sought to calm Jewish anger over the pope’s meeting with a prominent Polish priest accused of anti-Semitism, declaring the encounter did not imply any change in the church’s desire for good relations with Jews.
The Vatican issued the assurances after Pope Benedict XVI’s brief meeting Sunday with the Rev. Tadeusz Rydzyk, which drew protests from worldwide Jewish organizations.
The meeting “did not imply any change in the Holy See’s well-known position regarding relations between Catholics and Jews,” the Vatican said.
A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said the pope has spoken out often against anti-Semitism and has frequently expressed the desire for close relations between Catholics and Jews.
Benedict visited a synagogue in his native Germany shortly after assuming the papacy in 2005 and is scheduled to stop at a monument in Vienna for Holocaust victims during a trip to Austria next month.
Photos showing the pope at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo with Rydzyk, along with two other Polish priests, were published in Polish newspapers Tuesday.
Vatican officials said the three were brought to the pope, along with other pilgrims, after the pontiff’s weekly public blessing Sunday at his summer home.
Rydzyk, who runs a conservative media empire that includes the Catholic station Radio Maryja, was allegedly caught on tape suggesting that Jews are greedy and Polish President Lech Kaczynski is subservient to Jewish lobbyists.
The remarks allegedly were made in the spring, but they only surfaced in July in the weekly magazine Wprost. Rydzyk has rejected accusations of anti-Semitism and said he “didn’t intend to offend anyone.”
Israel and Jewish groups have denounced the remarks.
“There should be no place in the church for someone who spreads anti-Semitism,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said following the pope’s meeting with Rydzyk.
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