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Jews laud pope's insistence Jews did not kill Jesus
Pope Benedict XVI in Rome in February.
March 3rd, 2011
10:09 AM ET

Jews laud pope's insistence Jews did not kill Jesus

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

Jewish groups and leaders around the world are welcoming a clear declaration from Pope Benedict XVI that the Jewish people are not collectively responsible for the death of Jesus.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped to soon offer his "deep appreciation" to Benedict for his "forcefully rejecting ... a false charge that has been a foundation for the hatred of the Jewish people for many centuries."

"My fervent hope is that your clarity and courage will strengthen the relations between Jews and Christians throughout the world and help promote peace and reconciliation for generations to come," Netanyahu wrote in a letter to Benedict, which the prime minister's office made public.

A key Jewish envoy to the Vatican said the declaration - which she called "an excellent gesture" - shows that Benedict is "very committed" to the "deep connections between Christianity and Judaism" and to fighting anti-Semitism.

Lisa Palmieri-Billig, the American Jewish Committee's liaison to the Holy See, recalled a long conversation she had with Benedict in the 1990s, before he became pope, and said he made "overwhelmingly clear... the bond between Christians and Jews, the harmfulness of theological anti-Semitism."

"I know that this pope has been committed to all this progress that we have made" in Catholic-Jewish relations, said Palmieri-Billig.

The pope says in a new book, due out next week, that the Jews are not to blame for the crucifixion of Jesus, underlining a key breakthrough in Catholic-Jewish relations.

Many Catholics and other Christians blamed Jews for Jesus' death for hundreds of years - a doctrine which many Jews believe directly fueled anti-Semitism.

The Catholic Church formally repudiated the assertion that the Jewish people had committed "deicide," or the murder of God, in the 1960s.

Jewish organizations including the World Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League praised Benedict's new comments on the death of Jesus.

"Pope Benedict has rejected the previous teachings and perversions that have helped to foster and reinforce anti-Semitism through the centuries," ADL national director Abraham Foxman said.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, lauded the "critically important and timely statement by his Holiness, particularly at a time of increased mainstream anti-Semitism worldwide," calling it "a very important tool in the fight against Jew-hatred."

Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, welcomed the pope's book, but urged him to go farther.

"Many in the Catholic world have continued to espouse ideas of Jewish guilt. Refuting their fallacious arguments in a personal book, whilst right, is probably insufficient. This must become official Church doctrine, from top to bottom," he said in a statement.

Benedict discusses the death of Jesus in his new book "Jesus of Nazareth," which is to be released next week. CNN has obtained excerpts.

"Who has insisted on the condemnation of Jesus to death?" he asks in the book, referring to scenes in the Gospels in which the people of Jerusalem demand that Roman governor Pontius Pilate have Jesus crucified.

The Gospel of John says the people in question were "the Judeans," but the pope says the term "does not refer to - unlike the modern reader may tend to interpret - the people of Israel as such, and it doesn't even have a 'racist' connotation."

Far from meaning all Jewish people, Benedict writes, "the circle of prosecutors pursuing the death of Jesus" is the "aristocracy of the Temple," or the priesthood.

"Even that is not without exception," he adds in the book.

He also addresses accounts of the trial of Jesus in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, saying Mark's account blames the "mass" or the "mob," "not the Jewish people as such."

He dismisses Matthew's laying the blame on "all the people," saying the phrase does not represent "a historical fact."

"The real group of the accusers are the circle of the people from the Temple," he reiterates.

Benedict has had a sometimes difficult relationship with Jews during his six-year papacy.

He infuriated many by welcoming back into the church a rebel bishop who is on record as saying that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler did not have a systematic plan to murder Europe's Jews. The bishop also minimized the role of the Auschwitz death camp in the Holocaust.

Benedict later ordered the bishop, Richard Williamson, to recant his views, saying the Vatican was not aware of them when it decided to lift his excommunication.

Benedict also put his predecessor, Pius XII, on the path to sainthood, further antagonizing many Jews, who believe the World War II-era pope did little to save Jews from Hitler.

But Benedict also last year became the first pope to visit Rome's main synagogue since 1986, trying to smooth feathers on an annual "Day of Dialogue" with the Jewish community.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church • History • Interfaith issues • Judaism • Pope Benedict XVI

soundoff (421 Responses)
  1. james ainoris

    It am shocked and dismayed at the negative reaction to to positive change.I challenge anyone to research the origin of this terrible libel. It started around the 5th century during a time when the romans had hijacked christianity. The only people left who would not convert or follow their dogma was the jews. This libel was invented to inflame hatred of the ignorrant populas... none could read our writd...in fact there were laws that prevented such....only the jews maintained study and the laws from G-d. One most also realize that the romans veiwed the jews and christians as the same people.... Jerusalem and the temple was under Herodian rule. He was a sauducee... who were the enemies of orthodox judaism (pharisee). The sauducee s are opposite in everyway to the true jews (research on wikipedia) and led to extreme corruption. They later became kairites and reformers. They only followed the written Torah and rejected Talmud and rabbinic laws. Pharisee s cannot ask a non jewish court to kill a fellow jew . A law

    May 8, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  2. james ainoris

    When Moshiach arrives there will be no more war suffering or sickness for all the good people (righteous gentiles who follow seven Noachide laws) equal to jews..... this includes Moslems.... who also do not have or woship idols or man gods etc. Unlike many other relgions judaism does not seek or force conversion...if you are a good human being you have a place in a good world that is coming here on earth.... no scary burning in a pit or dooms day rapture tatics.... no sale of indulgences no original sin to pay for.... no one can die for you behaviors and save you... we are not "relgion" Religion is at set of beliefs by man which describe a personal god Judaism is a set of laws by G-d which describes what man should be...(R.Hirsch) G-d does not make mistakes and change his mind.... even Jesus doesnt say "old law is dead"....lol....

    May 4, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  3. just sayin

    But the Jews did kill him...they traded the life of a criminal for a delusional insane man to die in his place. Thank you Jews...shame you didn't kill him sooner.

    May 4, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  4. james ainoris

    This is a good sign of the coming of moshiach.... Does the vatican now recognize Israel? It is not fair to beat up only on the catholic church...yes we all know about the inquision poroms the evil crusades slave trade and genocide of south americans by catholics... but Martin Luther s protestents followed suit with genocide of american indians the starvation of millions of irish catholics burnig of witches slavery in american south..et al... read about what he says about the jews.... Mein Kamph was forged from lutheren rhetoric.... after years of study I have concluded that more human beings have been killed and or oppressed by the followers of the "prince of peace" than any other religion in the history of mankind.... and the primary target victim or scapegoat has been the jewish people....every evil government or king needed a scapegoat to take the populas s fustration on.... we were forced to be tax collectors lend money sell liquor for these leaders doig their dirty work.. G-d knows truth!

    May 4, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.