Jews did not kill Jesus, pope writes in new book
Pope Benedict XVI on March 2, 2011.
March 2nd, 2011
12:47 PM ET

Jews did not kill Jesus, pope writes in new book

The Jewish people are not collectively responsible for the death of Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI writes a book to be published next week.

Many Catholics and other Christians blamed Jews for Jesus' death for hundreds of years, but the Catholic Church formally repudiated that assertion in the 1960s.

Benedict underlines the new position in his book "Jesus of Nazareth."

"Who has insisted on the condemnation of Jesus to death?" he asks in the book, referring to scenes in the Gospels where 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, excerpts of which were obtained by CNN.

Benedict has had a 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 rebel 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.

The Jewish community "believes that Benedict's desire to continue dialogue is sincere," said Lisa Palmieri-Billig, the American Jewish Committee's liaison to the Holy See, just before the January 2010 meeting. "They believe the dialogue and the relationship are very important."

CNN's Gisella Deputato contributed to this report.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church • Judaism • Pope Benedict XVI

soundoff (1,434 Responses)
  1. 4ormorechars

    If Jesus was not allegedly crucified then there could be no story of death and rebirth, a theme which seems to have been copied from several other ancient religions that preceded Christianity.

    June 1, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
  2. CG

    The jews were given a choice of who they wanted to save because it was a high holy day when Jesus was sentenced and the tradition was to free a prisoner on that day. THE JEWS chose Barrabas and Jesus was put to death. Pope is wrong. It was their fault.

    February 23, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Hollee572

      It's not the JEWS, it was the JUDEANS- a totally different concept. Learn some history. Sheesh.

      February 23, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • charles allan

      I agree that most of the Jews called for Jesus death – however many of these converted later. Without the clamour of the High Priests Pontius Pilate would have freed Jesus – this is obvious from the gospels and from secular historians.
      But we must remember that it was converted Jews who began Christianity and give no offence to the Jew as Paul said – this does not however exclude telling them the truth.

      February 24, 2013 at 4:31 am |
    • phillippasmanick

      Bad enough condemning a child for his parents' actions, but condemning all Jews today for what happened (according to the questionable accounting at the time) TWO THOUSAND years ago is simply an excuse for anti-Semitism.

      I'm sure Jesus is proud of you......

      September 23, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  3. Jon

    "the first pope to visit Rome's main synagogue since 1986". Wow! Since 1986! Talk about a legacy! That isn't one.

    February 14, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  4. Khalid

    And because they said, "We have killed the Messiah, Eisa the son of Maryam, the Messenger of Allah" they did not slay him nor did they crucify him, but a look-alike was created for them; and those who disagree concerning it are in doubt about it; they know nothing of it, except the following of assumptions; and without doubt, they did not kill him.4:157

    February 14, 2013 at 1:52 am |
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