Pope, Jewish leaders, discuss resurgent anti-Semitism

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VATICAN CITY, Oct 8 (Reuters)World Jewish leaders today expressed concern to Pope Benedict about resurgent anti-Semitism and asked Vatican officials to take steps against a radical Polish priest accused of making anti-Jewish comments.

A World Jewish Congress delegation headed by the group's president, Ronald S. Lauder, held talks with the Pope in the pontiff's private study and also discussed ways that Christians, Muslims and Jews could work to improve dialogue.

WJC Secretary-General Michael Schneider told Reuters among the topics discussed was the problem of ''resurgent anti-Semitism,'' particularly in some European countries.

A WJC statement said the group ''called on the Pontiff to take action against those in the Church who wanted to do damage to the close and positive relationship between Christians and Jews''.

Lauder told Vatican officials during two days of meetings that statements by Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, a controversial broadcaster, ''should not be tolerated anymore'', the statement said.

Jewish and other groups have accused Rydzyk of spreading anti-Semitism and meddling in politics.

Rydzyk is the head of a powerful Catholic media empire, which includes Radio Maryja and television Trwam, watched and listened to by millions of Poles.

The Vatican has rebuked the priest for openly backing ruling conservative politicians in Poland. But Jewish groups complained in August when the Pope met Rydzyk, saying the encounter appeared to lend the priest legitimacy.

Human rights groups and Jewish groups have repeatedly called on Poland's authorities and the Polish Church to remove Rydzyk from his position because of anti-Semitic and xenophobic remarks that often appear in his media.

The Polish Church has so far failed to take a common stance on Rydzyk, fearing many elderly and poor Poles for whom Rydzyk is a moral guide would turn away from the Church.

But earlier this month Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was the late Pope John Paul's secretary for decades, publicly accused Rydzyk of trying to split the Church and smear the legacy of the late Pope, who greatly improved relations with Jews during his 27-year reign.

Rydzyk has strong support from Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski.

The priest's strong backing and appeals on the radio and television to vote for the conservatives in 2005 elections helped the brothers rise to power.

The issue is sensitive in the campaign for an early parliamentary election this month.

REUTERS TB AS0046

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