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Polish bishops to mark pogrom

Apology for 'all painful events in WWII'
Apology for 'all painful events in WWII'  

WARSAW, Poland -- Poland's Roman Catholic bishops are to apologise for the massacre of a Jewish community in their country during World War II.

The move comes after a book by a U.S.-based writer fueled ongoing debate with allegations that Polish residents and not Nazi German occupiers murdered nearly all of 1,600 Jews in the town of Jedwabne in 1941.

But Polish Catholic Primate Cardinal Jozef Glemp said the prayers would also include "all the evils done to Polish Catholics by Polish Jews."

Until recently, Glemp had expressed doubts about a move by President Aleksander Kwasniewski to lead official ceremonies apologising for the massacre on it's 60th anniversary this July.

Although Church officials have declined to participate in the state ceremonies, all of Poland's bishops will attend a religious gathering planned for May 27 in a Warsaw church located near the wartime walls of the notorious Warsaw ghetto where tens of thousands of Jews perished during the Holocaust.

Polish-born Jan Gross claimed in his book Neighbours that Poles set fire to a barn in Jedwabne after herding all the local Jews inside and later buried their bodies in a ditch.

He said his work was based on evidence given by surviving residents and testimony from a post-war trial of the alleged culprits.

But some historians and residents in the town say the killings were carried out by Germans or a few villagers who were forced into it.

Catholic episcopate spokesman Adam Schulz told local news agency PAP: "The bishops want to apologise for the sins or for the evil that was committed during the painful event... against the Jews of Jedwabne.

"Our prayers will... also include all painful events which took place during World War II, both on the Jewish and Catholic side."

A recent opinion poll revealed that nearly 50 per cent of Poles see no reason to apologise for Jedwabne and other wartime pogroms, with many still believing Poland's Nazi occupiers were to blame for such atrocities.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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