Thursday, August 27, 1998 Published at 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Rabbi unhappy at Auschwitz cross decision
The rabbi says the crosses are offensive to Jews
The Chief Rabbi of Poland, Menachem Pinchas Joskowicz, has said he is disappointed at the decision by Roman Catholic bishops to leave a single memorial cross standing just outside the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.
The bishops have called for the removal of a sea of crosses at the site, in a move to resolve a row between Jewish groups and Roman Catholic activists.
But in a statement released at an emergency meeting of the Polish Episcopate, the bishops said they wanted a larger cross at the centre of the row to remain as a memorial to Catholic victims of the Nazis.
Rabbi Joscowicz said he thought the bishops would have understood the pain caused to Jews who were forbidden to pray in the presence of a cross.
More recently, over 200 small crosses were planted on the perimeter of Auschwitz by Roman Catholic and Polish nationalist groups in protest at plans to remove the larger cross.
Jewish groups object to the presence of the crosses which they say is provocative and disturbs the climate of remembrance of Jews killed at the camp.
They have called for all religious symbols to be removed from the place where more than a million Jews were killed.
The bishops' response came after talks between the Polish Prime Minister, Jerzy Buzek, and the Primate of the Church, Jozef Glemp.
Although the church wields considerable influence in Poland, the bishops' call has no legal authority.
The protestors may choose to ignore the request to remove the crosses as they have in the past.
That would increase the pressure on the Polish government to find a solution to an increasingly international row.
A week ago, it started legal proceedings to claim back the private land where the crosses have been placed.