Vatican City: Pope Benedict XVI
exonerates the Jewish people as a whole from responsibility
for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in a new book due to be
published this month, prompting praise from Jewish groups.
The pope wrote that the condemnations of Jesus
Christ came from the "aristocracy of the temple" in Jerusalem
and from the "masses" who acclaimed Barabbas instead of Jesus
not from "the Jewish people as a whole".
Extracts from the book, the second volume of a
biography of Jesus Christ, were published by the Vatican's
official Osservatore Romano daily today.
The World Jewish Congress in a statement praised
the pope "for unequivocally rejecting the argument that the
Jewish people can be held responsible."
Congress head Ronald Lauder said: "2,000 years
after the event it really was high time that the head of the
Catholic Church made a clear statement on this.
"It sets an important marker against anti-Semitism
in the Church," he said.
"Jews suffered from brutal persecution and
anti-Semitism because Christians held them collectively
responsible for the killing of Jesus Christ, even though he
was himself a Jew and was crucified by the Roman rulers," he
Marco Politi, a Vatican expert at Italian daily Il
Fatto, said the pope's words were "a positive signal for the
Jewish people, showing that Benedict XVI absolutely does not
consider the gospels as a basis for any anti-Judaism."
Tensions between Judaism and Catholicism have been
high for centuries because of Catholic blame of the Jews for
A Vatican Council in the 1960s that exonerated the
Jews failed to end tensions, which have resurfaced in recent
years under Benedict's papacy.
In 2007, the pope reinstated a "prayer for the
conversion of Jews".
The following year he infuriated the Jewish
community with a decision to lift the excommunication of a
Holocaust-denying bishop, Richard Williamson.
There have also been Vatican moves to sanctify
World War II-era pope Pius XII, whose public silence on the
Holocaust has been widely criticised.
First Published: Thursday, March 03, 2011, 22:26