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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. erich555

    Thanks for finally clearing that up Benny.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  2. Frank

    We can all complain about religion or praise God. The reality is that maybe today or one day all of us will die and we will then find out the truth. For now I Choose to believe in the God of Jesus since I know from my own experiences that God is real and all the other gods do not matter to me.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • YBP

      Frank, you sound like a very simple person. Your life must be so easy. Ignorance really is bliss, isn't it?

      March 2, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      And how exactly do you know he exists? I doubt you had your picture taken with him or anything. Benefitting from the psychological placebo effect that prayer provides is not proof of anything but the fact that you believe in something. And choosing to believe because you are afraid not to is the oldest argument in the book. Instead of fearing the dark, why don’t you shed some like on the subject and get educated.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  3. than

    um, didnt god the father intend jesus to be killed? isnt that the whole point of christianity, that god so loved the world he gave his only son? seems like christians spend a lot of time trying to place blame for the one event that defines their beliefs. if the crucifixion hadnt happened there would be no christianity. its a lot harder to base your entire belief system on some guy who died of old age in a retirement home.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • YBP

      You're reciting some really crazy theology here, son. Look into it. That was written like 100 years later. Plus it's so immoral on so many levels. Who would believe this? It wreaks of the ancient world and the barbaric belefs of people in a very Dark Age. This is 2011.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  4. Jess

    Christianity: a saintly man died for you. Buddhism: a saintly man lived for you. Go figure...

    March 2, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • YBP

      No one died for us.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Byrd

      I'd much rather that someone have lived for me rather than died for me.

      Either way, I'll be sure to remember them fondly, but you sure won't catch me worshiping them. Or anything else for that matter.

      March 2, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  5. DisgruntledGrrl

    Um it's clear in the Bible it was the Romans. WTH?

    March 2, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • YBP

      What's clear is that never even happened. It's not history, it's allegory.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  6. Ole Sarge

    The thing that the Christians have been avoiding for centuries is that Jesus WAS SUPPOSED TO DIE in order to open the gates to heaven and save our souls. As I see it, The Jews did exactly as God had intended. Even Jesus confirmed (as the Scripture would tell you) that his suffering and death was neccessary to fulfill the scripture.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • YBP

      Nice try, but vicarious redemption does not exist. It is an impossible and immoral notion. Take responsibility for your own sins. What god would have you if you didn't?

      March 2, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  7. Sadie

    ... sigh.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  8. Amy

    Religion/the system is what killed Jesus

    March 2, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • YBP

      You're right. Jesus believed in the prophecies of the Book of Daniel, which was a forgery. That's where he got all that "Son of Man" and Kingdom of God" nonsense from. He was misguided from the start.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Byrd

      Exactly!

      March 2, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  9. pizza the hut

    really?? the jews didn't kill Jesus??? Then who the hell was that crowd that filled the square and demanded Jesus' death from Pilot.( according to the bible)..
    OH really POPE..it wasn't every Jew..rather it was their selected representives/religious leaders...and this makes it better HOW?
    It would be like saying america didn't invade iraq, it was George Bush.
    it woud be akin to saying don't hate america...hate BUSH!!

    March 2, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Amy

      It was religion that killed Jesus.... and it was the system that invade Irag.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • YBP

      That story of the people in the square is not history. The gospel was written (a) as allegory, and (b) as revenge. You have no idea what you believe in.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      The "people in the square" portion of the story was added after Constantine converted to Christianity to remove the blame of Christ's death from Rome itself to the Jews which were not favored. Constantine couldn't very well be Pontifex Maximus if his formers were directly responsible for Christ's death.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Ben

      Most people DO focus their hatred on Bush, not America.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  10. Greg

    Boy it's amazing after reading some of these posts how many of you are going to hell for eternity. No God, get a live pal. Where have you all been living? But the most important thing is where you'll be spending eternity. I will pray for each one of you that you find redemption in Jesus Christ.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • YBP

      Your post makes you out to be very ignorant.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Pray in one hand and defecate in the other and let me know which one gets filled first.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Byrd

      Sad to say that you're the fool here. That bozo Jesus has been back more times than you can shake a stick. What else would he have been doing? Hey, Zeus, how the hell are ya! Here's a personal lightning bolt from me to you! You know just where to put it.

      When you think you're god, I guess it's not hard to sometimes think of Existence as your personal playground. And it's far past time to clean up this pathetic moneychanger's playground.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  11. Bellic

    Dam all refs to Helll

    March 2, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  12. Byrd

    GOP/Christians/Corporations/Banks/Politicians/Moneychangers

    Same same. Time to throw the whole lot of them out of the temple.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  13. Bill the Science Guy

    For ThereisnoGod and Doubt It: There is evidence of spiritual reality. it is called human free will. Prominent scientists such as Stephen Hawking, Erwin Schrodinger, Albert Einstein, William Provine, Charles Darwin and others agree that free will cannot ever be explained as a natural phenomenon. This is described in the book The Science of the Soul. Science cannot logically use causes and correlations to explain something (free will) that by definition is the ability of humans to make choices that are NOT due to causes and correlations. This logic cannot be changed by some future scientific evidence or discovery.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Carl Wheeler (agnostic-atheist)

      What a load of crap!

      March 2, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Sean

      Very true, some of the greatest minds in human history have believed in a "God" figure, including Hawking.

      March 2, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • No and Yes

      NO. There really is no such thing as free will. You only confuse you subconcious knowledge as having no impact on your decisions. Everything you are is a product of your life time experience and your will is only your concious or unconcious decion making based on your ability to process that information. Then after you've done it, you have to pay the consequences, so where does the freedom come in? Sure your ego may tell you I did this or that because I wanted to, but your subconcious quietly knows the truth, just like you think you use your free will to breathe every breath and make every heart beat. YES. Your idea can and will change. It was wrong to start with.

      March 4, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  14. C Wood

    So a guy in charge of a nation entirely built from a work of fiction wrote a book about the fiction and said a group of people who are defined by a different work of fiction didn't actually do what some people who actually read the works of fictions said that they did?

    Got to love headline news. To test my hypothesis that God does not exist, I've asked him to perform a real miracle if he exists not just a statistical anomaly...still has not happened. Amazing at the decline of REAL miracles since the evolution of media to record the events. Come on God give us a burning bush that talks, cast the world into darkness without the help from an eclipse... Heck charlie Sheen talking rational might convince me

    March 2, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • High Priests

      We asked the same thing. A few years later we didn't have a temple or a city to have it in. Some people just can't take a joke. I mean we were the most important people in the land and he just wouldn't do his tricks for us. What an insult.

      March 4, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
  15. Mrs. Pogo

    This Pope is really going to extremes. Next thing ya' know, he'll be telling us that the earth ISN'T flat and that the sun doesn't revolve around the earth.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • bettejodux

      You are great. Love your reply. I am a humanist. I live in hawaii on the island of Kauai. I take a shot at the fundamentalist every chance I get. I think you might like some of my stuff. SUNDAY MEETING is your style, I think. Please visit me at http://bettejo.wordpress.com/ Peace and love Bettejo

      March 2, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Carl Wheeler (agnostic-atheist)

      You have to give the Vatican a little (and I mean to stress the word 'little') credit with regards to its views on scientific explanations. Compared to many other popular sects of Christianity, Catholicism at least accepts the theory of evolution and the big bang (among other scientific explanations). The same can't really be said for most of Baptism or Evangelism.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  16. country gent

    Jesus was killed because he kept getting in the face of the temple priests telling people that the 'pharisees and saducees and "doctors of the law" were corrupt. He was turning people against what amounted to local government based on Levitical law. They needed him dead lest the Romans thought they couldn't manage their affars and impose sanctions. They almost missed getting the Romans to do the dirty work since Pilate initially wanted to release him. In the end it was Pilate not wanting to have it known that he was allowing a "king" other than Caesar. It wsa politics as usual, a little more brutally applied.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  17. Just Curious

    If it was God's plan to sacrifice his son to bring about a new kingdom and save us, then his crucifixion was inevitable. We should not use "blame", but "credit". If someone didn't put him to death, he couldn't have conquered death and risen from it.

    For this reason, Judas should also be beatified. Judas knew better than the other apostles what HAD to happen in order for Christ to complete the plan. I know he is generally painted as a betrayor, but I choose to see it very differently. He stepped up. Talk about courage.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • grist

      I never understood the idea that the symbolic (symbolic because gods really can't die) death of a son/god could have any effect on people. It just makes no sense. Somehow, people's sins are forgiven? Well that is crazy. If someone acts unethically then there should be consequences and they should not be forgiven just because someone 2000 years ago is alleged to have been crucified. Grow up and take responsibility for your own actions!

      March 2, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Abraham Lost His Nerve?

      God just wanted to show the Jews that Abraham was a wimp and a new sheriff was in town. They must have listened caused they scattered to the four corners not long after, with a little help from the Romans, God's new freinds. Okay now. all siiliness aside, were burnt sacrifices wasted, or fed to the priests or the poor. It seems not good to promote such waste, especially if you were expected to sacrifice the best. Not good survival stuff. Even Darwin would agree. So did it take years of Greek and Roman and Persian and Egyptian thought to realize this, and good story to put an end to it?

      March 4, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  18. jon

    I saw this once in a college paper: "God is dead." -Nietsze ... later.... "Nietsze is dead" -God. It says it all. Go ahead, mock religion, mock God; better and smarter men than you found out, later. Good luck with that when the time comes.

    March 2, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Byrd

      No one gets out of here alive. Jim Morrison

      What else have you got?

      March 2, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Picklejuice

      jon...which god are you referring to?

      March 2, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Noah

      Yes, that bumper sticker logic is directly analogous to a real discussion of God's existence, or lack thereof. And it's Nietzsche. Try reading some.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • sami

      How do you know? What do you know? Who told you and why don't we all know?

      March 2, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Milo

      It's "No one here gets out alive" – Jim Morrison

      March 2, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • The Killer

      Awoke before dawn, he put his boots on................to get through all this muck.

      March 4, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
  19. Byrd

    Jews? Why is everyone always blaming the Jews? In America, the fundamentalist Christians have done more to kill Jesus than Pilate ever could have hoped to accomplished. And Pilate was Roman, not Jewish. Blame the Popes instead.

    P.S. If you're god, getting killed is more of an annoyance than anything else, so don't take it so personally or seriously.

    Going and coming, coming and going, and always too soon...

    March 2, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Helix

      Pilate was a Roman employee, whether he was Roman or not is unclear. What is clear is that he himself found nothing treasonable about Jesus's actions, and only sentenced him against his will.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • bettejodux

      Loved your reply. I am a humanist. A columnist. I live in Hawaii on the island of Kauai. i take a shot at the religious fundamentalists every chance I get. You might like to visit me. Scroll round and round, read up and down. http://bettejo.wordpress.com/ Peace and love Bettejo

      March 2, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Byrd

      Hello bettejodux: Lived on Oahu for three years myself. So nice to meet you!

      March 2, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  20. Picklejuice

    OK here's a question for you all. I've noticed some posts from people below saying that the bible should be open to interpretation.

    But if the bible is the infallible word of god...why does it need to be interpreted? Shouldn't we be able to take it at face value?

    March 2, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Chris

      Who says that it is "the infallible word of God'? Which of the many versions of the Bible are you referring to?

      March 2, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Picklejuice

      Try every practicing christian I've met. We hear constantly that the bible is the word of god...read the prefaces to bibles even. The bible I was given reads "we know that the bible is reliable because it is the perfect word of god". And plus, the fact that the bible was supposed to have been written by god himself should make it go without saying that it should be flawless. So again I ask...if it's the word of a supreme being, and thereby totally reliable, why should it be open to interpretation?

      March 2, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Byrd

      If the Bible is the infallible word of god, then why did it need to be translated into so many other languages? Seems a bit of a design flaw to me, especially if you happen to be god and have written something so perfect that it's absolutely essential that all beings in existence experience and understand it (meaning his undying love) immediately and exactly as originally written.

      There are many other inherent design flaws if you'd care to discuss them. I'm PERFECTLY willing.

      March 2, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Of Little Brain

      Anyone who believes its the absolute literal word of God either has not read their version or have very low reading comprehension skills. Making the smart people of the day believe such things might have been possible hundreds of years ago when mass was in Latin and peasants had no idea what was being said and they weren't allowed to read it if they could, but really. Read it. There's nothing wrong with that. take the good parts and use them. that's okay as well. Please don't ry to do everything iy says though or you will end up with a terrible bi-polar split personality schizophrenic personality. Pray for God to give you some good sense as you read.

      March 4, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
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