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News Briefs II

Catholic Apology Inadequate, Jewish Groups Say

The Washington Post

Jewish groups will issue a formal statement next week expressing their disappointment with what they call the Catholic Church's effort to whitewash its role in the Holocaust.

The document is the official response taking issue with the Roman Catholic Church's formal apology for its role in the Holocaust, called "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah" and released by Pope John Paul II last year. While the Jewish groups praise the pope's efforts to improve Catholic-Jewish relations, they insist the church must go further in bearing its share of responsibility for Hitler's war against the Jews.

When the Pope issued his apology, it was understood to be the act of a man who has made reconciliation with Jews a major priority of his papacy. But almost immediately, Jewish groups complained that it fell far short of their expectations.

In a draft of the response, prepared by a group that conducts formal relations with the Vatican, Jewish groups characterized the Vatican apology as evasive on key historical points. The church apology, they claim, minimizes the role of anti-Jewish Christian teachings that, at the time, promoted secular anti-Semitism. It also exaggerates the number of Christians who assisted persecuted Jews, they claim.

"Hitler, Himmler and other Nazi leaders were all baptized Christians who were never excommunicated," reads the document to be issued by the International Committee on Inter-religious Consultations, the coalition of all major Jewish groups. "The same is true of the vast apparatus of killers, a product of Christian Europe."

Bin Laden at Camp Day of Attack

The Washington Post

Osama bin Laden, the international terrorist accused of sponsoring attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa this month, was present at one of his mountain camps in Afghanistan on the day that it was struck by American cruise missiles, but he left before the weapons hit, according to administration officials.

The officials, who have access to intelligence reports, said bin Laden had met at the camp earlier on Aug. 20 with senior members of his network. Advance knowledge of plans for the meeting has been cited by U.S. authorities as one reason for the timing of the missile attack, although administration officials, who are prohibited by law from attempting assassinations, have stressed they were not trying to target the multimillionaire Saudi expatriate.

"We know in fact that a meeting took place on the day of the strike," said a senior defense official. He added that U.S. authorities had been unable to determine whether other participants may still have been in the camp when the missiles started falling.

While U.S. officials have portrayed the missile attack as having been drafted rapidly in the two weeks following the Aug. 7 terrorist strikes in Kenya and Tanzania, defense sources disclosed that military planners received orders in June to prepare for a possible assault on the same camp complex near the town of Khost.

The order came in the immediate wake of bin Laden's publicized threats in the spring against the United States, in addition to other indications detected by U.S. intelligence.