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Pope Francis: Antisemitism is "a sin against God"


Pope Francis has written a letter to “his Jewish brothers and sisters” in Israel (2 Feb 2024) in response to communications received and specifically in light of an Open Letter by Jewish Leaders and Scholars. 


In Pope Francis’ reply letter, he begins by lamenting the wars and divisions that are increasing all over the world. He then makes three essential points:


First, he assures his Jewish brothers and sisters that he is with them in their grief and pain.


“My heart is close to you, to the Holy Land, to all the peoples who inhabit it, Israelis and Palestinians, and I pray that the desire for peace may prevail in all. I want you to know that you are close to my heart and to the heart of the Church…”


Second, the Pope’s letter affirms the teaching of the Second Vatican Council when he writes that the Church “rejects every form of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, unequivocally condemning manifestations of hatred towards Jews and Judaism as a sin against God.”


Here, Pope Francis acknowledges the grim reality on the ground:


“Together with you, we, Catholics, are very concerned about the terrible increase in attacks against Jews around the world. We had hoped that ‘never again’ would be a refrain heard by the new generations, yet now we see that the path ahead requires ever closer collaboration to eradicate these phenomena.”


Third, the papal letter stresses the shared task of peacebuilding. 


“Together, Jews and Catholics, we must commit ourselves to this path of friendship, solidarity and cooperation in seeking ways to repair a destroyed world, working together in every part of the world, and especially in the Holy Land, to recover the ability to see in the face of every person the image of God, in which we were created.”


Our Jewish friends appreciate Catholic words of compassion, support and solidarity. They appreciate them even more when our words translate into practical commitments. So, what can Catholics do to live the sentiments of Pope Francis’ letter? Here are six suggestions:


  1. Write a note of support to a Jewish friend, or to a Jewish community or organisation in your neighbourhood or state. There has been a staggering 738% increase in antisemitic incidents in Australia in recent months, and many Jews are feeling unsafe in their own country and concerned for the safety and wellbeing of their children.  A note of reassurance from a fellow Australian is a welcome gesture.

  2. Parents, teach your children what antisemitism is, and model what it means to be upstanders, not bystanders, whenever Jews, or any person, is harmed by prejudice and hate speech.

  3. Engage in respectful conversations about matters such as the war in Gaza where opinions are divided, taking care that social media and ‘placard’ narratives do not replace the real work of education about social, political and historical realities.

  4. Support peacebuilding initiatives that bring together people of diverse faiths and cultures.

Pray for Jewish communities in their heartfelt concerns, including joining in prayer for the hostages who are still being held by Hamas.


And we pray for peace for all in Gaza and in Israel at this time of great distress.


If you live in Sydney, join in a peaceful rally against antisemitism this weekend: Sunday 18 February, 3.00 pm (youth event at 2pm) at the Domain in the city of Sydney. “Never Again Is Now” is a Christian initiative and open to all Australians.
Say No to antisemitism and affirm the bond we share as Australians committed to a peaceful and cohesive society.

 


Teresa Pirola is Sydney-based freelance writer and author of Catholic-Jewish Relations: Twelve Key Themes for Teaching and Preaching (Paulist Press, 2023).



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