Polish church leaders have issued an official apology for its tolerance of anti-Semitic attitudes throughout history. A letter, issued on Friday in a special Jubilee session at the Marian shrine of Czestochowa, was published by Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper and then read at all Masses throughout the country on Sunday. Over 95 per cent of the population in Poland's 39 million people are Catholic. The letter read: "We ask forgiveness for those among us who show disdain for people of other denominations or tolerate anti-Semitism. "Anti-Semitism, just like anti-Christianism, is a sin,'' it said. The bishops said the Holocaust was a tragedy. They admitted that, although some people made noble efforts to save Jews during the Nazi occupation, many showed indifference or enmity. The letter appeals for strengthening Christian solidarity with the "people of Israel to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again, anywhere". Before the war, Poland's 3.5 million Jewish community was the largest in Europe and made up 10 per cent of the nation. But only a few hundred survived the Holocaust and most of them were driven out by communist-sponsored anti-Semitic propaganda in 1968. Some 20,000 Jews live in Poland now. Bitter disputes over the painful past and over present-day differences still erupt between Poland and members of the Jewish Diaspora. The bishops said: "We must strive to overcome all signs of anti-Judaism, that stems from wrong interpretation of the Church's teaching, and of anti-Semitism, which is hatred stemming from nationalistic or racial ideas that still exist among the Christians." The bishops appealed for dialogue with nonbelievers and for solidarity, mutual respect and cooperation with other denominations in the interest of the common good. On behalf of the Church, they asked for forgiveness from all those who: "did not find understanding or met with rejection or suffered because Christians forgot the basic truth that we are all children of one God". The letter is the first statement from the Polish bishops since the Pope apologised in March for the role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust.
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