Priest Calls For Equal Memorial
For Christians At Auschwitz
WARSAW (Reuters) - A Roman Catholic priest celebrating mass outside the walls of the former Nazi German death camp Auschwitz on Sunday called for a joint Judeo-Catholic memorial to end a longstanding row at the site.
``Auschwitz-Birkenau should become the scene of an international memorial incorporating both the Jewish Star of David and the Christian cross,'' the domestic PAP news agency reported Father Tadeusz Dziegiel-Wolyniewicz as saying.
``After that, peace and brotherly love should ensue,'' he said in his sermon to some 20 people attending the open air mass in a downpour in the southern town of Oswiecim. The priest also blessed Stations of the Cross, a series of 14 tableaux tracing Christ's road to crucifixion, which were recently added to some 240 crosses already standing in a controversial field just outside the walls of Auschwitz.
Radical Catholics led by Kazimierz Switon, a self-styled defender of a papal cross, have set up the crosses despite protests by Jewish groups, the Polish government and the Catholic Church, which said erecting them was an abuse of the religious symbol and put strain on Judeo-Christian relations.
Jewish groups object to any religious symbols being placed near the camp, where 1.5 million people died, about 90 percent of them Jews. But radical Polish Catholics say they have a right to pray for the 152 Polish political prisoners, executed at Auschwitz by the Germans at the start of the war. A 21-foot (seven-metre) wooden cross, under which Pope John Paul prayed during his visit to Poland in 1979, has marked the site since 1988.
The cross row began earlier this year when Krzysztof Sliwinski, Poland's special ambassador to the Jewish Diaspora, said the papal cross would soon be removed. Last month, the government suffered a setback in the dispute when a Polish court rejected its move to take over the area where the crosses have been placed.