7 Reminders from the Popes that Catholics Must Oppose Anti-Semitism

Pope Francis enters the main gate of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani)

In the wake of yet another apparently anti-Semitic attack, we need to be reminded of our responsibility to stand up against hatred in all its forms. Just as we are all called by our shepherds to be actively anti-racist, so too must we be actively working against the yet-undefeated evil of violence against our Jewish brothers and sisters.

This is not a new call. Here are seven quotations from recent popes condemning anti-Semitism:

  1. “Today the practice of persecuting the Jews has begun again here and there. Brothers and sisters, this is neither human nor Christian. The Jewish people are our brothers, and they should not be persecuted.” Francis, General Audience of 13 November, 2019

  2. “As I have often repeated, a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite; we share the same roots.” Francis, Greeting to a Delegation of the World Congress of Mountain Jews

  3. “To be anti-Semitic also signifies being anti-Christian. Once again I feel the duty to pay heartfelt recognition to those who have died unjustly and to those that have dedicated themselves to assure that the names of these victims may always be remembered. God does not forget!” Benedict XVI, Address to the Representatives of the Jewish Community in France

  4.  “The Church remembers the spi­ritual link between herself and Abraham’s stock. It is this link, which the declaration goes on to explain and illustrate, that is the real foundation for our relation with the Jewish people. A relation which could well be called a real parentage and which we have with that religious community alone… This link can be called a sacred one, stemming as it does from the mysterious will of God.” John Paul II, Address to the International Liaison Committee

  5.  “…the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel’s spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.” Paul VI, Nostra Aetate

  6. “I am your brother, Joseph,” John XXIII greeting a delegation from an American Jewish charity in 1960.

  7. “At the most solemn moment of the Mass we recite the prayer which contains the expression ‘sacrifice of Abel, sacrifice of Abraham, sacrifice of Melchizedek’ in three strokes, three times, three steps, the entire religious history of mankind—a magnificent passage… Note that Abraham is called our patriarch, our ancestor. Anti-Semitism is incompatible with the thought and the sublime reality expressed in this text. It is alien to us, a movement in which we Christians can have no part. The promise was made to Abraham and to his descendants. It is realized in Christ, and through Christ in us who are members of his mystical body. Through Christ and in Christ we are the spiritual descendants of Abraham. No, it is not possible for Christians to take part in anti-Semitism… Anti-Semitism is inadmissible. Spiritually, we are Semites.” Pius XI, “Spiritually, we are Semites.”

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As a Church, we haven’t always lived up to our ideal in defending our ancestors in faith, but we cannot sit idly by while anti-Semitism around the world rears its ugly head. We must work actively to promote an end to this violence, while being united in prayer.

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