ROME (May. 24)
The Catholic establishment has responded to charges by Rome’s chief rabbi, Ellio Toaff, that the Catholic press shares responsibility with the general news media for the recent wave of anti-Semitic incidents in Italy.
The Conference of Italian Bishops, after meeting on the issue Friday, released a statement Monday expressing deep concern over the incidents. It condemned anti-Jewish attitudes and warned Italians to beware of anti-Semitic feelings.
It urged Catholics to differentiate between Jews and the acts and policies of the Israeli government, and to reject simplified or distorted accounts of events in the Middle East.
The statement was issued less than a week after Toaff held a news conference in Rome’s main synagogue to call attention to the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Italy. The rabbi displayed bundles of hate mail and photographs of anti-Semitic graffiti. He also spoke of Jews being accosted on the streets of Rome and receiving threats of violence.
The chief rabbi attributed this phenomenon to what he claimed was biased and distorted reporting by both the secular and church news media of Israel’s handling of the Palestinian unrest. According to Toaff, this biased reporting in the Catholic press drew no reaction from the Vatican.
Italian readers and television viewers appear to be holding Jews generally responsible for Israeli behavior. The bishops’ statement took cognizance of that fact.
‘OUR OLDER BROTHERS’
It stated that “Catholics should consider Jews our older brothers in the faith of Abraham” and warned that distinctions had to be made between Jews and the politics and policies of the Israel government.
Catholics were urged to “distinguish between love for our Jewish brothers and support of political attitudes for which are responsible not the Jewish people in its entirety, nor even the entire Israeli population, but the government of the State of Israel or some political parties.”
The statement went on to say that “the persistent tensions between Palestinians and Israelis continues to provoke serious worries in the Italian and thus Catholic milieu concerning the risk of distortion of information and consequent emotional reactions, which, in the extremist fringe, may explode into violence.
“We appeal to our community to pay proper and responsible attention in reading about and confronting the difficult Palestinian-Israeli situation, rejecting simplifications and partial or distorted interpretations and getting rid of dangerous equivocalities,” the statement said.
It concluded with a call for a dialogue among the three major religions to attempt to bring peace to the Middle East.