Anti-Semitism forum at Vatican bars Jews

ROME — The Vatican is holding a symposium on anti-Semitism, but no Jews have been invited.

Jewish leaders are disappointed that there will be no Jewish presence when the Vatican holds a closed-door symposium later this week to examine the roots of anti-Semitism in Christian teaching.

Cardinals and other church officials, as well as about 60 Roman Catholic scholars and theologians, will take part in the meeting, "The Roots of Anti-Judaism in the Christian Environment."

Representatives of other Christian denominations, including Protestants and Orthodox Christians, also will attend the meeting, which was scheduled to take place from Thursday to Saturday.

Tullia Zevi, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, said she had hoped that some Jewish scholars might have been invited as observers.

"The answer was very polite, but firm, that this was an internal church" matter, she said, adding "We have great confidence in the work of the commission."

The Vatican said in a statement that the conference would focus on "essentially Christian themes."

"This is the reason why their development and elaboration has been entrusted for the most part to Catholic theologians," it said.

The statement added that the meeting, which was expected to be closed to the public and the media, will aim "to overcome the misunderstanding and divisions of the past, rediscover the character of each faith and look to the future with tranquility and hope."

Pope John Paul II, who has often condemned anti-Semitism and who has taken many steps to encourage Christian-Jewish dialogue, was expected to address the symposium.

But the meeting was not expected to result in the official church document condemning anti-Semitism that Jewish leaders have sought.