`Shoah' Still Chafes Catholics and Jews

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Top Catholic and Jewish leaders yesterday continued to disagree about the role of the Vatican during the Holocaust but said a recent church document on remembering the European tragedy is improving interfaith relations.

The Nazis' killing of 6 million Jews may have been "made easier by the anti-Jewish prejudices embedded in some Christian minds and hearts," the Vatican's Cardinal Edward Cassidy told the annual meeting of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) yesterday.

But Cardinal Cassidy, who is head of church relations with Jews, repeated the claim of the new Vatican statement that it was a "modern neo-pagan" racism that motivated the Nazis.

"Before making accusations as a whole or individuals, one must know what precisely motivated them in a particular situation," the cardinal said.

In a response, the director of the AJC's Interreligious Affairs Committee criticized the Vatican for trying to distance Christian belief from the gas chambers.

"The Vatican statement denies responsibility for any connection between historic Christian anti-Judaism, and the anti-Semitism that led to the Shoah," Martin S. Kaplan said. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

"Shoah" is the term some Jews use for the Holocaust.

Mr. Kaplan, however, credited Cardinal Cassidy with being more forthright about the issue than the official church document, "We Remember," which the Vatican released March 16.

Robert S. Rifkind, outgoing president of the AJC, called Cardinal Cassidy's presentation the "first serious, substantial commentary" on the Vatican statement.

Cardinal Cassidy said the Vatican statement was addressed to world Catholics, so it was not as specific about failures as statements made by European bishops for each of their countries. …