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Polish Church uncovers hidden painting to foster religious ties

20 january 2014, 10:04
0
Poland's Catholic Church on Thursday unveiled a painting kept hidden because of its controversial depiction of Jews murdering Christian children, saying it wanted to foster interfaith dialogue, AFP reports.

The 18th-century painting by Italy's Charles de Prevot entitled "Ritual Murder" was put on display at the cathedral in the southern town of Sandomierz to mark the Church's annual Judaism Day.

It is being displayed with a plaque explaining that it is historically incorrect and that Jews could not have committed ritual murder because their faith forbids it.

Poland's chief rabbi Michael Schudrich backed the move to show the work, which had been covered up since 2006 after protests from both Catholics and Jews.

"It had a damaging place in history, it had a murderous place in history. You know, Jews were murdered after such accusations were made, but to cover it up I think is in some ways to forget or deny a painful past," Schudrich told AFP.

"And so to uncover it, to show it publically, is to show it for what it is: a lie, a falsification and something that no one believes in anymore."

The large work is part of a series of a dozen paintings depicting Catholic martyrdom.

Poland was once Europe's Jewish heartland, boasting a 1,000-year Jewish presence that was crippled by the Holocaust, during which Nazi Germany killed 90 percent of Poland's 3.3 million pre-war Jews.

Many of those who remained emigrated either immediately after the war or during waves of anti-Semitism driven by Poland's communist regime in the 1950s and 1960s.

Those who stayed often hid their Jewish roots, which Poles have been rediscovering since the fall of the Iron Curtain.

"Compared to... 20 years ago, we've made tremendous strides, closening and deepening understanding and relations, and we still have a long way to go," Schudrich told AFP.

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