Catholics may adopt Anne Frank

ROME — Anne Frank as a martyr in the Catholic Church?

Reports that an Italian Catholic Church official wants the Vatican to recognize Anne Frank as part of an "ecumenical commemoration of new martyrs" for the year 2000 have raised Jewish concerns that the church might attempt to appropriate the Dutch Jewish girl, known for the diary she kept as she and her family hid from the Nazis, as a Catholic symbol.

The Italian media reported over the weekend that Monsignor Antonio Pace of Naples had formally submitted the request to the Vatican. But a spokesman at the Vatican's office told JTA on Monday that no such formal request had arrived. He said the Vatican's proposed new martyrs would all be Christians.

"It seems to be just a proposal floated by the priest in question as a means of widening the discussion," the Vatican official said of Pace's remarks.

The Vatican announced last month that it would honor 20th-century witnesses and martyrs in a ceremony at Rome's ancient Colosseum in May 2000.

Pope John Paul II has declared 2000 — which begins the third millennium of the Roman Catholic Church — a holy year.

Pace last week urged that the list be widened to include Frank as well as Iqbal Masih, a 12-year-old Pakistani Muslim boy who was killed because of his activities protesting the exploitation of child laborers.

These moves, Pace told the news agency of the Italian Bishops Conference, would be a means of "promoting interreligious dialogue and reiterating that martyrs are an example and a patrimony for all religions."

The Vatican has received some 4,000 suggestions for the new martyrs from all over the world.