Pope took good first step

PRAGUE — European rabbis have cautiously praised the Vatican's document of repentance for the Catholic Church's actions during the Holocaust.

The positive response by a group representing the European Conference of Rabbis distances them from the many Jewish leaders in America and Israel who were critical of the church's failure in the document released last week to condemn the wartime pope, Pius XII.

"We recognize that they can't do that," said Rabbi Moshe Rose, director of the conference.

"While we must express our disappointment that the Vatican did not accept responsibility for the centuries of persecution of the Jewish people, we recognize the significance of this declaration as a first step in the right direction," said an official statement issued at the end of three days of meetings in the Czech capital of Prague.

"What the pope said is good, but it is only a beginning," said Rabbi Alain Goldmann, chief rabbi of Paris.

Rabbi Joseph Sitruk, chief rabbi of France, and Rabbi Ya'akov Dov Bleich, chief rabbi of Ukraine, echoed American Jewish leaders when they called for the Vatican to open its archives as a step toward Jewish-Catholic understanding.

The committee voted to bring the Vatican statement up for discussion at the May session of the full Conference of Rabbis.