Jewish interreligious affairs experts have welcomed Pope John Paul II’s denouncement of the current resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe.
During his regular weekly audience at the Vatican on Wednesday, the pope said he condemned “profanations which offend the memory of the victims of the Shoah,” the Hebrew word for the Holocaust.
“The church deplores the hate, the persecutions and all forms of anti-Semitism which target the Jews of any era and which are carried out by anybody,” the pope said.
His statement marked the 27th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate,” the Vatican document that invalidated the long-held Catholic belief in collective Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus. “Nostra Aetate,” published in 1965, fundamentally recast the Catholic view of Jews and Judaism.
John Paul II referred directly to the document in his address, saying, “I recall this anniversary having in mind very vividly the bitterness over the news of attacks and profanations which, for some time, offend the memory of the victims of the Shoah in those same places which were witness to the sufferings of millions of people.
“The church deplores the hatred, persecutions and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at any time and from any source,” he said, adding: “Every form of racism is a sin against God and against man.”
According to Rabbi Mark Winer, co-chair of the Synagogue Council of America’s interfaith affairs committee, “the pope himself feels very deeply on a personal level the historic suffering of the Jewish people.
“On his own religious faith he has committed himself to try to correct the sins of the Catholic Church’s history in this regard,” said Winer.
The Synagogue Council is a constituent of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, or IJCIC, the Jewish community’s official dialogue partner with the Vatican.
Jerome Chanes, co-director for domestic concerns at the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, an umbrella for national agencies and community relations councils, also welcomed the pope’s statements.
“It is entirely consistent with papal statements and Vatican actions of recent years,” Chanes said.
IJCIC Chairman Edgar Bronfman hailed the pope’s message as “a great positive signal” before IJCIC representatives meet with senior Vatican officials in Rome on Nov. 12.
At that meeting, three IJCIC representatives will discuss with Catholic delegates an upcoming papal encyclical on the Holocaust and cooperation in the struggle against resurgent anti-Semitism in Europe.
The pope, while a young priest in Cracow, aided in the rescue of Jews during the Holocaust.
“His solid record goes back to the war years,” said Winer, one of the three IJCIC representatives who will be at the Nov. 12 meeting.
“This is one area where the pope is everything we could want him to be. He’s a very positive force in dealing with anti-Semitism and bigotry of all kinds.”