March 4, 2011

Pope says Jews not to blame for Christ’s crucifixion

by Jan Harris

Extracts of Pope Benedict’s forthcoming book have been published which reject the idea of collective Jewish guilt for Jesus Christ’s death.

The idea of Jews as “Christ Killers” has fostered prejudice and hostility towards the Jews for centuries.

The Pope’s book supports the Catholic Church’s earlier repudiation of the idea that the Jewish people are responsible for Christ’s death in Nostra Aetate, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions, which was published in 1965.

However, the Pope’s analysis of the story of Christ’s death in the gospels is considered deeply significant and has been welcomed by Jewish leaders and a huge step forward.

When considering Pontius Pilate’s decision to condemn Jesus to death, Pope Benedict analyses St John’s statement that Jesus’s accusers were “the Jews” and says he believes that this was a reference to the Temple aristocracy, rather than the Jewish race as a whole.

“How could the whole people have been present at this moment to clamour for Jesus’ death?” he asks, and goes on to explain that just a few Temple leaders and a small group of supporters bore the responsibility.

The Pope also analyses a phrase from the gospel of Matthew – “His blood be on us and on our children”, and says that Jesus’s blood is poured out for all, in a spirit of reconciliation; it does not cry out for vengeance and punishment.

Elan Steinberg, vice-president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants said: “This is a personal repudiation of the theological underpinning of centuries of anti-Semitism.”

The World Jewish Council praised the Pope for “setting an important marker against anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applauded Pope Benedict’s courage for writing the book.

In a statement he said: “I commend you for forcefully rejecting in your recent book 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 promote peace and reconciliation for generations to come.”

The book, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week – From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, will be published on 10 March.

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