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Cardinal Spellman Warns Against Blaming Jews for Crucifixion of Jesus

May 1, 1964
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York, addressing tonight the 57th annual dinner of the American Jewish Committee, said he was “frankly appalled” by the idea that the “Jewish people have often suffered outbreaks of persecution” as “punishment for their part in the Crucifixion of Christ.”

“This, ” he emphasized, “is not Christianity. It is one of those distorted and terribly harmful notions which somehow gain currency and like cancer spread among certain people who wish to justify their own bigotry. ” Stating that “our Saviour died for all of us in expiation for the sins of all mankind, ” he added: “It is simply absurd to maintain that there is some kind of continuing guilt which is transferred to any group of people and which rests upon them as a curse for which they must suffer. His dying for us must never be thought of as a curse upon anyone but rather as a blessing upon all.”

Declaring that “anti-Semitism can never find a basis in the Catholic religion, ” the Roman Catholic Church leader, who addressed a Jewish group for the first time in 17 years, said: “Far from emphasizing the differences which divide Jews from Christians, our faith stresses our common origins and the ties which bind us together.”

President Johnson, greeting the dinner, noted “the growing spirit of Christian-Jewish understanding which has been a most important part of the American Jewish Committee’s work as aptly exemplified by Cardinal Spellman’s participation in your annual meeting.”

President Johnson also congratulated Secretary of State Dean Rusk on being the recipient of the Committee’s American Liberties Medallion at the dinner. Making the presentation was Jacob Blaustein, industrialist of Baltimore and honorary president of the American Jewish Committee, a former recipient of the Award. (By the time the Bulletin went to press, Secretary Rusk did not deliver his address as yet.)


Morris B. Abram, president of the American Jewish Committee, addressing the more than 1,100 leaders from communities throughout the country who attended the dinner, spoke of the roles of Christianity and Judaism in a modern pluralistic society. He declared: “The truths Jews share with Christianity and the moral teachings we hold in common should be emphasized. Our differences must be confronted; but they must also be understood.

“And as each of us–Catholic, Protestant and Jew–come to understand a little better the nature of the differences that divide us, we must also learn to view the expressions of these differences not as evil conspiracies by one group imposed upon another but rather as a legitimate expression of a felt need of one group as against another,” Mr. Abram urged.

Noting the great strides made recently in interreligious understanding, Mr. Abram observed that if “constructive efforts such as the various self-examinations now underway by all the religious groups had occurred decades ago, and specifically in the pre-Hitler era, the people of Western Europe might have been better equipped to resist the onslaughts of Nazism and those courageous religious leaders who opposed Hitler might have found support among their flock in their opposition.”


At another session of the AJ Committee conference, Harlan Cleveland, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, said today that world opinion is becoming an increasingly potent weapon in piercing national frontiers of countries which practice prejudice and discrimination. Mr. Cleveland cited as an example the recent exposure by the American Jewish Committee of the virulently anti-Semitic book, “Judaism Without Embellishment, ” published by the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.

Following this exposure, Mr. Cleveland said, world opinion caused the Soviet Government to repudiate the work. “Obviously this expose did not end anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union,” he added. “Other more serious examples remain as a continuing source of national friction and international concern. But the essential point is that a government often considered immune to world opinion was moved this time to take action against the source of irritation rather than against its accusers. It was a limited action to be sure- a specific denunciation rather than a general renunciation–but it was action and that is more than ever happened before.”

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