Vatican may admit Holocaust guilt

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VATICAN CITY - The Vatican yesterday confirmed its contempt for anti-Semitism but played down reports that a document on the Holocaust would be a historic admission of guilt by the Catholic Church for the extermination of Jews. The document, first announced by the Pope in 1987, is still in its initial stages, but the Italian press gave it considerable coverage following reports from Jerusalem about the contents.

'Holocaust - The Church accuses itself', the daily newspaper Corriere della Sera said in a headline.

According to Jewish sources, a draft says the 'anti-Jewish theological tradition of the Church was an important component of the Holocaust', and centuries of Catholic hostility towards Jews 'prepared the way for modern anti-Semitism'.

Vatican and Jewish sources said the draft was written by Professor Hans Hermann Henrix of the Catholic Theological Institute in Aachen, Germany. It was ordered by a Vatican commission for relations with Jews and is partly based on a document on the Holocaust written by the German and Polish bishops' conferences.

Professor Henrix's report on the draft of the document, provisionally titled 'Anti- Semitism, the Shoah and the Church', was delivered to members of a joint Vatican- Israeli commission at a meeting in Jerusalem. Shoah is Hebrew for Holocaust.

Following the Italian reports that the document would be an historic 'mea culpa', the Vatican underlined the provisional and unofficial nature of the draft.

'It is a draft, no church authority has approved it yet and it does not reflect an official position of the Church at this stage,' insisted a Vatican spokesman, Joaquin Navarro- Valls.