Pope Francis expressed concern on Friday at the rise in antisemitism and hatred in many countries. “A source of great concern to me is the spread, in many places, of a climate of wickedness and fury, in which an excessive and depraved hatred is taking root,” the Pope said as he received a delegation of one of the biggest Jewish organisations in the United States, the American Jewish Committee.
“I think especially of the outbreak of anti-Semitic attacks in various countries,” he added, recalling that for a Christian, this was “a rejection of one’s own origins, a total contradiction,” a reference to the Jewish origins of Jesus Christ, which for a long time were not mentioned in the teachings of the Catholic Church.
In this regard, Francis paid homage to a document of the Vatican II Concilium, “Nostra Aetate”, which, in 1965, advocated respect for other religions, including Judaism, thus breaking with centuries of anti-Judaism in the Catholic Church.
“In the fight against hatred and antisemitism, an important tool is interreligious dialogue,” the Pope remarked. “Jews and Christians, moreover, share a rich spiritual heritage, which allows us to do much good together,” he added, highlighting the importance of training future generations”.
The American Jewish Committee had celebrated on Monday in New York the Vatican’s announcement that the archives of Pope Pius XII (1939 – 1958) would be opened in 2020, describing it as an “immensely important gesture for Jewish – Catholic relations” that it had been advocating for over 30 years.
Pope Pius had often been accused of not sufficiently denouncing the massacres targeting Jews, whereas some historians assure that he saved the lives of tens of thousands of Italian Jews by asking convents to open their doors to them.
The U.S. Lower House on Thursday approved, by a very wide margin, a resolution condemning hate speech, after stormy discussions on antisemitism between members of the Democratic party, sparked by statements by a female Muslim legislator on US support for Israel.
The town of Alsace, in northeastern France, has been hit recently by a spate of antisemitic attacks, such as swastikas drawn on Jewish tombstones and an old synagogue.
And in February, the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut was insulted in Paris by demonstrators from the Yellow Vests movement.