When will Vatican apologize

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Three decades after clearing Jews of blame for the death of Jesus, the Vatican is finally examining its own culpability as a messenger and silent accomplice of anti-Semitism.

But it has yet to blame itself for its role in the Holocaust.

Calling anti-Semitism an offense against "God and the church itself," the Roman Catholic Church ended a three-day symposium Sunday. Looking at the religious roots of anti-Semitism, the church said a long history of anti-Jewish prejudice resulted in the failure of Christians to stop Nazi persecution.

During a closed-door conference that included more than 50 biblical and theological scholars from throughout the world — but no Jews — church leaders examined the roots of anti-Semitism in interpretations of the Christian Bible.

But the church has yet to condemn itself for failing to take more aggressive action against the Nazis. And it continues to praise Pius XII, the wartime pope whom many criticize for remaining mute during the horrors of the Holocaust.

In addition, the world is still awaiting a long-anticipated papal document chronicling activities of the church during the Nazi regime.

The Vatican conference is an important first step. Like many Christian faiths, the Roman Catholic Church deserves praise for opening windows and casting a critical look at its history.

But by excluding Jews from the symposium, the windows were not opened wide enough.

Rabbi A. James Rudin, the American Jewish Committee's director of interfaith affairs, said the conference didn't create a "breakthrough, but building blocks, and very important ones," to furthering positive Jewish-Catholic relations.

Indeed, Pope John Paul II — who has spoken out against anti-Semitism, forged relations with Israel two years ago and hosted a historic Shoah concert honoring survivors — has done much to heal divisions between Jews and Catholics.

Let us hope that further meetings between scholars and community leaders of both faiths will help end the strife wrought by centuries of prejudice and ill will.