By Ken Oliver-Méndez
In a letter addressed to “my Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel” and released today, Pope Francis lamented the “terrible increase in attacks against Jews around the world” that has taken place since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war last October.
The Holy Father’s fresh declarations on the subject were made in response to a November appeal, signed by several hundred rabbis and scholars, that called on the Catholic Church “to act as a beacon of moral and conceptual clarity amid an ocean of disinformation, distortion and deceit” and to “distinguish between legitimate political criticism on Israel’s policy in the past and present and between hateful negation of Israel and of Jews.”
In his letter, which follows on the heels of the Holy Father’s Feb. 2 private audience with Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See Raphael Schutz, Pope Francis states “My heart is close to you, to the Holy Land, to all the peoples who inhabit it, Israelis and Palestinians, and I pray that the desire for peace may prevail in all.”
“I want you to know that you are close to my heart and to the heart of the Church. In the light of the numerous communications that have been sent to me by various friends and Jewish organizations from all over the world and in the light of your own letter, which I greatly appreciate, I feel the desire to assure you of my closeness and affection. I embrace each of you, and especially those who are consumed by anguish, pain, fear and even anger. Words are so difficult to formulate in the face of a tragedy like the one that has occurred in recent months,” the Pope said.
In his letter, Pope Francis further emphasized “The path that the Church has walked with you, the ancient people of the covenant, rejects every form of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, unequivocally condemning manifestations of hatred towards Jews and Judaism as a sin against God.”
“Together with you, we, Catholics, are very concerned about the terrible increase in attacks against Jews around the world. We had hoped that ‘never again’ would be a refrain heard by the new generations, yet now we see that the path ahead requires ever closer collaboration to eradicate these phenomena,” the Pope declared.
The Holy Father added “we must never lose hope for a possible peace and that we must do everything possible to promote it, rejecting every form of defeatism and mistrust.”
“We must look to God, the only source of certain hope. As I said ten years ago: “History teaches that our own powers do not suffice. More than once we have been on the verge of peace, but the evil one, employing a variety of means, has succeeded in blocking it.” (Vatican Garden, June 8, 2014).
In conclusion, the Holy Father stated that “In times of desolation, we have great difficulty seeing a future horizon where light replaces darkness, in which friendship replaces hatred, in which cooperation replaces war. However, we, as Jews and Catholics, are witnesses to precisely such a horizon. And we must act, starting first and foremost from the Holy Land, where together we want to work for peace and justice, doing everything possible to create relationships capable of opening new horizons of light for everyone, Israelis and Palestinians.”
This story was developed in collaboration with ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian-language sister service.