Macron's gift to Pope faces Polish probe over 'looted by Nazis' allegation

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French President Emmanuel Macron’s gift to Pope Francis is under investigation over allegations it was looted by the Nazis. The pair held talks on Monday, with the crisis in Ukraine and prospects for peace thought to have been their main topics of discussion. The Vatican said their private talks lasted 55 minutes but, as is customary, did not specify what they discussed.

Prior to Mr Macron’s visit, victims of sexual abuse said the Catholic church was reacting too slowly to a report revealing assaults by French clergy on more than 200,000 children, and urged him to raise the issue directly with the pope.

The Vatican said that Ukraine, particularly the humanitarian situation there, topped the agenda in later talks President Macron had with the Vatican’s two top diplomats. They also discussed the Caucasus, the Middle East, and Africa.

Topics in such meetings often mirror what is discussed in leaders’ private papal audiences.

The French President, accompanied by his wife Brigitte and greeted with an honour guard of Swiss Guards, gave the Pope a first edition of German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s “Perpetual Peace,” published in French in 1796. The pope gave Macron a medallion depicting an early plan for St. Peter’s Basilica and some of his writings.

But after photos of the exchanged gifts were published online, experts in Poland were quick to notice that the book gifted to Pope Francis by the French leader bears a stamp of a Polish reading society founded by students at a university in the city of Lviv – formerly in eastern Poland.

The university society was founded before the Nazi occupation of Poland, prompting suspicion by the Polish government that the book could have been an original copy looted by the Nazi.

“The Foreign Ministry is investigating the circumstance of French President Emmanuel Macron’s gift to Pope Francis,” Lukasz Jasina, a foreign ministry spokesman, told the Polish Press Agency, on Tuesday, adding that it “will issue no further comment on the matter for the time being”.

The investigation comes as Poland also officially demanded Germany pays a World War Two reparation bill worth £1.2trillion.

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Germany, Poland’s biggest trade partner, has said all financial claims linked to the war had been settled.

But earlier this month, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau signed a diplomatic note to Germany concerning reparations for World War Two formalising Poland’s demand for compensation ahead of a visit by Berlin’s top diplomat.

“(The note) expresses the position of the Polish minister of foreign affairs that the parties should take immediate steps to permanently and effectively… settle the issue of the consequences of aggression and German occupation,” Mr Rau told a news conference.

Some six million Poles, including three million Polish Jews, were killed during the war and Warsaw was razed to the ground following a 1944 uprising in which about 200,000 civilians died.

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In 1953, Poland’s then-communist rulers relinquished all claims to war reparations under pressure from the Soviet Union, which wanted to free East Germany, also a Soviet satellite, from any liabilities.

Poland’s ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS) say that agreement is invalid because Poland was unable to negotiate fair compensation.

It has revived calls for compensation since it took power in 2015 and has made the promotion of Poland’s wartime victimhood a central plank of its appeal to nationalism.

The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) has repeated calls for compensation several times since it took power in 2015, but Poland was yet to officially demand reparations.



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