Will the Vatican bestow sainthood upon a Holocaust-era Polish cardinal who was “extremely” hostile to Jews?
By: AP and World Israel News Staff
A leading Jewish organization has criticized the Vatican’s decision to move World War II-era Cardinal August Hlond along the path to possible sainthood, saying the Polish cleric was “extremely” hostile to Jews and failed to prevent or condemn the post-Holocaust 1946 pogrom of Kielce, which left 42 Jews dead and more than 40 wounded.
In a letter to top Vatican officials released last week, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) said it was “profoundly” concerned that Pope Francis approved a decree recognizing Hlond’s “heroic virtues,” the first main step in the sainthood process.
AJC’s director of interreligious affairs, Rabbi David Rosen, cited a 1936 pastoral letter Hlond wrote in which he urged Poles to stay away from the “harmful moral influence of Jews” and to boycott Jewish media.
“It is a fact that the Jews are fighting against the Catholic Church, persisting in free thinking, and are the vanguard of godlessness, Bolshevism and subversion,” Hlond wrote in the letter, which frequently has been cited as evidence of the Catholic Church’s institutional anti-Semitism.
“It is good to prefer your own kind when shopping, to avoid Jewish stores and Jewish stalls in the marketplace,” Hlond further wrote. “One should stay away from the harmful moral influence of Jews, keep away from their anti-Christian culture, and especially boycott the Jewish press and demoralizing Jewish publications.”
In 1946, just months prior to the infamous Kielce pogrom, Hlond refused to meet with Polish Jewish leaders over concerns about the accusations of ritual murder ahead of Passover and the danger of such a pogrom.
A week after the horrific event, “Cardinal Hlond held a press conference but he did not condemn the pogrom nor urge Poles to stop murdering Jews. Rather, he pointed out that the Jews were all communists or supporters of communism and that the pogrom was their own fault,” the AJC letter charged.
Highly respected in Poland
Hlond, who was highest-ranking church official in Poland from 1926 until his death in 1948, remains highly respected in Poland for having kept the faith strong and protecting the Church’s independence during the German Nazi occupation and the first years of post-war communism.
While living in exile during World War II, Hlond used his influence and personal contacts to speak to the world about Poland’s plight under Nazi occupation. When the Germans arrested him, he refused an offer to form a collaborative government.
Francis’ decree that Hlond lived a life of heroic virtue came after investigators compiled a full study of his life, writings and works to determine their theological soundness. Somehow, the issue of his anti-Semitism failed to emerge.
The Vatican must still confirm a miracle attributed to his intercession for him to be beatified, and a second one for him to be made a saint.
The Vatican has previously been embroiled in controversy for its backing of anti-Semites being declared Catholic saints.
In June 2015, Pope Francis supported the candidacy for sainthood of a French priest whose dossier was put on hold in 2005 because of his alleged anti-Semitic views.
Leon Dehon (1843-1925), founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart order, had been declared venerable in 1997 by Pope John Paul II but his beatification ran into difficulties.
In his 1898 “Social Catechism”, Dehon wrote that Jews “have maintained their hatred of Christ and… willingly favor all the enemies of the Church.”