Solidarity's daily newspaper, American Jews and a British tabloid criticized Poland's Roman Catholic primate Monday for his "painful" and "anti-Semitic" remarks regarding the controversy over a Carmelite convent at the former Auschwitz death camp.
Cardinal Jozef Glemp said Saturday that Jews demanding the convent's removal should not speak to Poles "from the position of a nation raised above all others." He said the Jews had violated Polish sovereignty and told them not to dictate terms that were impossible to meet.
"The words used by the primate threaten to be deeply painful to many descendants and brothers of the Holocaust victims," the Solidarity daily Gazeta Wyborcza said.
"These words hurt in a real and not an artificial or paper-like way. On the eve of the 50th anniversary of World War II, we listened to these words with regret and pain."
In New York, Rabbi Avi Weiss, who led a protest demonstration at Auschwitz last month, called Glemp's comments "something out of the Middle Ages, a blood libel."
Glemp accused Weiss and the six other New York Jews involved in the protest of wanting to kill the nuns and destroy the convent. He called on the Jewish media not to make "heroes" out of the protesters.
In an apparent reference to Polish workers who beat the protesters as they forcibly ejected them from the convent grounds, Glemp said the New Yorkers "did not kill the nuns or destroy the convent only because they were stopped."
Glemp's comments triggered an outburst of angry statements from U.S. Jewish leaders Monday. Weiss said Glemp's statements "are the sort that cause pogroms. I hope the Vatican disciplines him. We were victims, beaten by Polish citizens. The church in Poland is not doing enough to preach against anti-Semitism, it seems instead to be preaching anti-Semitism."
Glen Richter, another of the protesters at the convent, said Glemp's comments were "false and outrageous."
"We went there to talk to the nuns. When they refused to let us into the convent's grounds, we scaled the wall and stayed there to pray and study. The cardinal's comment seems meant to stir up a hornet's nest of anti-Semitism."
The New York-based World Jewish Congress described Glemp's statements as "grotesque and hate-filled . . . (revealing) that an ugly vein of anti-Semitism runs through the Polish church."
In London, the mass circulation Daily Mirror said Glemp's stand must have had the backing of Pope John Paul II.
"The cardinal has tapped into the deep vein of anti-Semitism which has existed in his country for a thousand years. He would not have done so without the knowledge of the Pope, himself a Pole," Monday's editorial said.
"He tried to justify his own shameless bad faith in tearing up a solemn agreement that a Carmelite convent would be removed from Auschwitz, a place which the Holocaust made holy to Jews."