Swiss Catholic Church asks Jews for forgiveness

The Catholic Church in Switzerland has asked Jewish people for forgiveness, for not doing enough to stop the persecution of Jews during the Second World War. But Bishop Kurt Koch (file picture) said the statement did not amount to an apology.

This content was published on March 9, 2000 - 18:45

The Catholic Church in Switzerland has asked Jewish people for forgiveness, for not doing enough to stop the persecution of Jews during the Second World War. But Bishop Kurt Koch (file picture) made it clear that the Church was not apologising for its passive behaviour during Nazi rule in Germany.

Koch, who is vice president of the Swiss Bishops Conference, said, "We ask for forgiveness. We regret and confess to what happened."

He told his assembled colleagues that the Church now had a duty to learn from history. He said that the fight against anti-Semitism remained high on the Church's agenda and warned that it was unacceptable to try to brush the whole episode under the carpet.

Rolf Bloch, the president of the Federation of Swiss Jewish Communities, welcomed the statement and said the lack of an apology was not so important.

"The Swiss Jewish community has not asked the Swiss Bishops to apologise," he said. "My main point would be that they do something against anti-Semitism today and they do something to help all human beings when they are in need and not just sit silent or be inactive."

The Swiss Bishops Conference will publish its official report on April 14 on the behaviour of the Catholic Church in Switzerland towards Jewish people from the beginning of the Second World War to the present day.

It is the work of a joint Jewish/Catholic discussion forum and follows the findings of the Bergier commission on mistakes made in Switzerland during the Nazi era. The report also offers a detailed account of injustices suffered by the Jewish people.

Koch's statement comes ahead of Pope John Paul's official "Mea Culpa" declaration scheduled for Sunday, in which the Pontiff will ask God for forgiveness for mistakes by the Church.

From staff and wire reports

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