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Cardinal calls Jewish group's ad criticising pope 'unjust'

A high-ranking Vatican official has criticised the Anti-Defamation League in the US for its ads expressing sadness at Pope John Paul II's "silence" after an anti-Semitic diatribe by Syrian President Bashar Assad in the pope's presence.

"To defame the Holy Father by attributing `silence' to him is quite unjust and cannot go uncontested," wrote Cardinal Walter Kasper in a letter last month to ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman. The cardinal is president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

In a separate letter the same day, Cardinal Kasper declined a request by Seymour Reich, chairman of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, for a special IJCIC meeting with the pope to discuss the Assad incident.