In a special church service, Poland's Roman Catholic bishops have asked forgiveness for the complicity of church members in a wartime massacre of Jews.

The country's leading Jewish theologian welcomed the "unambiguous gesture," but criticized church leaders' continued tolerance of anti-Semitism.

At a service on May 27 in All Saints Church, close to the site of Warsaw's wartime Jewish ghetto, Bishop Stanislaw Gadecki, chairman of the Polish church's Commission for Dialogue with Judaism, said his church condemned "all forms of intolerance, racism and anti-Semitism." He referred specifically to the pogrom at Jedwabne where up to 1600 Jewish men, women and children were hacked to death or burned alive on July 10, 1941 during an eight-hour rampage three weeks after the German occupation of eastern Poland.

"We wish to show regret and penance for crimes which occurred at Jedwabne and elsewhere, whose victims were Jews and whose perpetrators included Poles and Catholics, baptized people," Gadecki said. "We are deeply pained by the behavior of those who inflicted suffering and even death on Jews. We recall this crime so we can fruitfully assume responsibility for overcoming every evil occurring today."

Poland's 3.5 million Jews made up a tenth of the national population before the Second World War, although only 100,000 survived the Holocaust. Jewish community groups in Poland now have about 3,000 members, and the country has about 150 religious Jews.

Stanislaw Krajewski, co-chairman of Poland's Council of Christians and Jews, said: "The [Warsaw] service itself left a very positive impression since it was unambiguously stated that guilt for this massacre was shared by Polish Catholics. But the problem lies in how much practical effect ...

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