A leading Polish Catholic bishop caused a stir on Monday when he was quoted as saying that Jews had "expropriated" the Holocaust as a "propaganda weapon".

The comments by Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, a former head of the Polish bishops' conference, prompted concern among Jewish leaders in both Poland and Italy after they were published on the conservative Italian Catholic website www.pontifex.roma.

Pieronek later went on Polish television to say his comments had been manipulated and he denied one phrase in which he was quoted as saying "the Holocaust as such is a Jewish invention".

He also said that he did not "authorise" the publication of the interview, which was still on the website on Monday evening.

"It is undeniable that the greatest number of dead in concentration camps were Jews but there are also Polish gypsies, Italians and Catholics on the list," he was quoted as saying.

On Wednesday some countries will mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day on the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Polish President Lech Kaczynski and ministers from many European countries are due to attend commemorative events at Auschwitz on Wednesday.

"It is not right to expropriate that tragedy for propaganda," Pieronek was quoted as saying, adding that memorial days should be held for the "victims of communism, for Catholics, for persecuted Christians and so on."

He continued: "But they, the Jews, enjoy good press because they have powerful financial means behind them, enormous power and the unconditional backing of the United States and this favors a certain arrogance that I find unbearable."

"I am totally shocked by these comments, particularly if they came from a member of the Church hierarchy," said Leone Passerman, ex-president of Rome's Jewish community who was among those who hosted Pope Benedict at Rome's synagogue on Jan. 17.

Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League in the United States, said: "It is so sad that 65 years after the liberation of Auschwitz a Polish cleric still engages in anti-Semitic rhetoric because so much Jewish blood was shed on Polish soil."

Pieronek, asked if the Holocaust had been exploited, said: "Certainly it has. It is used as a propaganda weapon to get advantages that are often unjustified."

Piotr Kadlcik, head of the Jewish community in Poland, which was the largest in Europe before World War Two, said he hoped the controversy over the publication would not hurt the upcoming Holocaust memorials.

"It really has provoked many harsh comments from both sides so it just shows how fragile the dialogue between the two religions is and that's really worrying," he said.