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Catholic Church formally apologises to Jewish Community

The Catholic church in Switzerland has formally apologised for not doing enough to help Jews during World War Two. The Bishops' Conference asked for forgiveness to pave the way for normal relations with the Jewish community.

The Catholic church in Switzerland has formally apologised for not doing enough to help Jews during World War Two. The Bishops' Conference asked for forgiveness to pave the way for normal relations with the Jewish community.

In a declaration, presented in Berne, the bishops said it was painful to admit that the church had remained inactive during the Nazi Holocaust. They said the Catholic church had been too self-centred and did not do enough to save refugees, particularly people of Jewish origin.

"All the church can do is to ask God for forgiveness for the mistakes of the past," Monsignor Kurt Koch said, "we can not really apologise. It's important that the church learns the lesson and continues the fight against anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism."

The bishops issued a similar statement in March, which came before a pronouncement by Pope John Paul on Catholic-Jewish relations and an historic visit to the Holy Land by the Pontiff.

Swiss Jewish leaders have welcomed the bishops' statements. The president of the Jewish community, Rolf Bloch, praised the Bishops' Conference for doing more than the Pope. Bloch said the bishops' declaration also included criticism of the whole church as an institution, not only of the community of individuals.

Bloch said the declaration paved the way for peaceful co-existence between the faiths. He also expressed satisfaction that the Swiss government has apologised for its refugee policy during World War Two.

swissinfo and agencies

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