The Vatican today officially withdrew the status of “martyr” attached for nearly five centuries to a three-year-old Christian child named Simon of Trent, who was subsequently made a saint. The Vatican declared that the Jews of Trent, who had been tortured to death for the alleged ritual murder of Simon, had been “innocent.”
The Vatican action came today on the heels of last week’s promulgation by Pope Paul VI of the new Catholic Church doctrine, absolving the Jewish people of the ancient charge of deicide and deploring anti-Semitism.
The child Simon was found dead in the Italian City of Trent in 1475, and the Jews of the city were accused of having murdered the little boy for the use of his blood during the celebration of Passover. A number of Jews in Trent and in other cities were tortured to death as a result of that accusation. After an investigation by some prelates, Pope Gregory XIII issued a bull stating that the verdict of guilt against the Jews was correct, and declaring Simon a martyr. Later, he was made a saint. Today’s Vatican action reverses all phases of that ruling.
The case of Simon of Trent was one of the bluntest anti-Semitic actions in Christian history. An 80-year-old Jew “confessed” to the libelous accusation after being tortured. Thereupon, a number of Jews were beheaded or hanged. After a bishop had probed the issue on behalf of the Vatican, and had ruled that the Jews were innocent. another investigator told Pope Gregory XII that he found the charges against the Jews justified. Pope Gregory then issued his bull. At the Church of St. Peter at Trent, a special chapel was dedicated to honor St. Simon of Trent.
Stemming from this case, ritual murder charges were lodged against Jews in many other cities, particularly in Regensburg, and more Jewish martyrs were sacrificed. When Pope Gregory XII sanctified Simon, he made a saint also of a Franciscan monk, Bernardius de Feltre, who had ruled the Jews of Trent guilty. The monk was a friend of the chief enemy of the Jews in that region, a man who had enriched himself by the confiscation of the property of the Jews tortured to death.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.