Cardinal's comments offend Israel


VATICAN CITY - Relations between the Vatican and Israel grew tense yesterday when the Jewish state condemned an aide to Pope Benedict for calling Gaza "a big concentration camp".

Israel criticised Cardinal Renato Martino as the pope delivered a speech to diplomats in which he spoke out against the use of violence by Israel and Hamas.

On Wednesday, Cardinal Martino, president of the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, delivered the Vaticans toughest criticism of Israel since its offensive in Gaza, including a statement that under current condition Gaza resembled a "big concentration camp".

We are astounded to hear from a spiritual dignitary words that are so far removed from truth and dignity, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said. "The vocabulary of Hamas propaganda, coming from a member of the College of Cardinals, is a shocking and disappointing phenomenon."

Jewish leaders also condemned the cardinal. "His comments are offensive and an insult to the memory of the Holocaust," said Elan Steinberg, a US Jewish spokesman - (Reuters)