Pope: Persecution of Jews is ‘sinful’

Pope John Paul II was addressing leaders of Australia’s Jewish community. But his words were a message to the Christian world: “No valid theological justification can ever be found for acts of discrimination or persecution against Jews. In fact, such acts must be held to be sinful.”

The Pontiff, on his visit here last month, met, at his request, with a delegation of nine Jewish leaders, led by Leslie Caplan, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

His condemnation of anti-Semitism followed a statement in which the Pope recognized that this “is still the century of the Shoah” (Holocaust) and emphasized the words of the Nostra Aetate encyclical of 1965 in which the Catholic Church deplored “the hatred, persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at any time by anyone.”

The meeting took place in the Presbytery of St. Mary’s Cathedral on the morning of the Pope’s only full day in Sydney. His speech did not refer to the State of Israel although Jewish delegations had formally requested the Vatican to consider diplomatic recognition of Israel.

‘TRUTHS OF OUR JEWISH HERITAGE’

“Where Catholics are concerned,” the Pope said, “it will continue to be an explicit and very important part of my mission to repeat and emphasize that our attitude to the Jewish religion should be one of the greatest respect, since the Catholic faith is rooted in the eternal truths contained in the Hebrew scriptures, and in the irrevocable covenant made with Abraham.

“We, too, gratefully hold these truths of our Jewish heritage and look upon you as brothers and sisters in the Lord,” the Pope said.

He added that “to be frank and sincere” both faiths must recognize “that there are still obvious differences between us in religious belief and practice” but “nothing, however, prevents us from true and fraternal cooperation in many worthy enterprises such as biblical studies and numerous works of justice and charity.

“Such combined undertakings can bring us ever closer together in friendship and trust,” he said. He also referred to “widespread violations of human rights” which “makes it all the more important for people of good will to stand together to defend life, defend the freedom of religious belief and practice and defend all other fundamental human freedoms.”

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