Pope Urges Reconciliation With Jews

.c The Associated Press

VIENNA, Austria (June 20) - Pope John Paul II, on the second day of his three-day pastoral visit to Austria, recalled today the "unspeakable suffering" that had been imposed on Jews in Europe.

Reconciliation with the Jews is a fundamental duty for all Christians in Europe, the 78-year-old pontiff told church dignitaries, political leaders and diplomats at Vienna's downtown imperial Hofburg palace.

"We must not forget that European history is closely intertwined with the history of the people from which Jesus has emanated," John Paul said.

"In Europe, unspeakable suffering has been inflicted on the Jewish people," he said. "We cannot necessarily presuppose that all roots of this injustice have been irretrievably weeded out."

Speaking about the need to bring Eastern and Western Europe close together, the pope said: "Another big task faces the builders of Europe: to create from a West European island of affluence an all-European zone of freedom, justice and peace."

John Paul arrived in Salzburg on Friday for the third visit to Austria of his papacy. Small children greeted him, raising signs saying, "We are with you."

The pope was interrupted by applause several times during his homily at Mass on Friday in Salzburg's 14th-century cathedral. Cheers became especially loud when he said he was confident that young people "can again put a Christian face on the old Europe."

But not all young people responded enthusiastically.

"The pope is old, I find it hard to identify with him," said Anne Pichler, a 21-year-old psychology student.

The Austrian church has been shaken by dissent since the pope's 1988 visit and rocked by sexual scandal.

A reform movement called "We are the Church" gathered a half-million signatures in Austria in 1995 and spread elsewhere in Europe and the United States. The group wants the church to drop its requirement that priests be celibate, allow women into the priesthood and give greater voice to lay Catholics.

The pope forced Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, accused of sexually molesting young boys, to relinquish all his duties in April. Groer went into exile in Germany, but likely will be allowed to return soon after the papal visit.

Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn said he hopes the pope's visit will show that, despite its problems, "the Austrian church is not sick, that it is alive and well and full of vitality."

The pope is scheduled to beatify three people, including a nun, Sister Restituta Kafka, who was beheaded by the Nazis in 1943. Beatification is the last formal step before possible sainthood.

John Paul was to return to Rome late Sunday.

AP-NY-06-20-98 0622EDT


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