ROME (Apr. 5)
The Italian Jewish community was reported today to be disturbed by the appearance in Osservatore Romano, the official organ of the Vatican, of an article suggesting that the Roman Emperor Titus probably felt he was justified in ordering the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews in 70 C.E.
The article appeared under the headline “The Only Mean Action Committed by Titus,” which the Emperor himself referred to obscurely on his deathbed. The Vatican organ said the action in all probability was the action in the year 70 and cited the statement of the historian, Tacitus, that Titus had repeatedly said that “the Jewish people were so obviously struck by divine punishment that it would indeed have been an impious action to spare them from destruction.”
Osservatore Romano commented that Titus probably felt that he was being the executor of a supernatural will because the Jewish people “had stained themselves with a horrible crime”–the crucifixion of Jesus–”and therefore deserved expiation.” The Vatican paper then asked: “Had not the Jews shouted that ‘the blood of the innocent should fall upon them and their children? The Jews were obviously struck by divine punishment and Titus was thus unconsciously accomplishing the plans of the Divine Providence.”
Jewish sources commented with bitterness on what they considered a new demonstration of the Catholic Church’s contribution to the perpetuation of the concept of the “collective guilt” of the Jewish people and the theme they merited punishment. They expressed the hope that Pope John, who has demonstrated a consistent interest and effort in correcting Church dogma hostile to Jews, would be emulated by the Vatican’s official organ.