from the office of Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich

WARSAW – Last Friday April 19, which was Good Friday for Christians – the day commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus – residents of Pruchnik, a small town in Poland’s southeast sector, beat up and burned a doll that was meant to represent Jews.

This hateful act evoked the centuries of Good Friday persecutions and killings of Jews by Catholics, who wrongly blamed the Jewish people for Jesus’ death instead of those really responsible, the Roman Empire.

But today, Catholic Church leaders swiftly condemned the heinous act.

“In the context of the events that took place in Pruchnik on April 19, the Church clearly expresses her disapproval of practices that violates human dignity, declared Bishop Rafal Markowski, chairman of the church’s Committee for Dialogue with Judaism on Monday.

“The Catholic Church will never tolerate manifestations of contempt towards members of any nation, including the Jewish people.”

In response, the Association of Polish Rabbis welcomed the Bishop’s statement.

“We thank the Bishop’s Conference for their clear, unequivocal and quick response to the anti-Semitic beating and burning of a Jew in effigy in Pruchnik, the association said.

“We will continue to work closely with our brothers of the Bishop Conference in fighting hate whether it be in Sri Lanka or in our beloved Poland,” they added, referring to the horrific series of deadly bombings in Sri Lanka – including three churches as Christians gathered on Easter Sunday – killing at least 290 people and leaving hundreds more injured.

In Poland, the effigy burning was also denounced by Polish Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski, He called the incident “idiotic, pseudo-religious chutzpah” and referred to the participants as “Satans.”

The swift show of support from the Catholic Church for the Jewish community can be attributed to the historic Vatican II document called Nostra Aetate adopted in 1965 and subsequent church teachings, which declares anti-Semitism a sin against God at any time or place, rejects the false deicide claim that all Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus, affirms the continuing validity of God’s covenant with Moses and the Jewish people, and calls for greater respect and understanding between Catholics and Jews.