Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis today issued a strong condemnation of anti-Semitism and mentioned the role played by the Church of Rome, by will of Pius XII, in rescuing many Jews from Nazi persecution.
In a meeting with a delegation from the Jewish community of Rome, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the city's Jews (16 October 1943), the Pope said "to keep vigilant so that, under no pretext should forms of intolerance and anti-Semitism be allowed to come back to life in Rome and the rest of the world. [...] Let Anti-Semitism be banished from the heart and life of every man and every woman!"
In his speech, Francis said that "with over two thousand years of uninterrupted presence", the Jewish community of Rome is the oldest in Western Europe. "For many centuries the Jewish community and the Church of Rome have co-existed in this city, with a history that has, as we well know, often been marred with misunderstandings and real injustice", he said. "However, by now this history includes, with the help of God, many decades of the development of friendly and brotherly relations."
"On the Catholic side, the reflection of the Second Vatican Council certainly contributed to this change of mind-set, but no less a contribution came from the life and action, on both sides, of wise and generous men, capable of recognising the call of the Lord and boldly walk on new paths of encounter and dialogue."
"Paradoxically, the shared tragedy of war taught us to walk together. We shall remember in a few days the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the Jews of Rome. We shall remember and pray for the many innocent victims of human barbarity, for their families."
"This anniversary will also allow us to remember how, in this hour of darkness, the Christian community of this city reached out to its brothers and sisters in trouble. We know how many religious institutions, monasteries and Papal Basilicas, interpreting the will of the Pope, opened their doors in a brotherly welcome, and how many ordinary Christians offered what help they could give, however big or small."
"The vast majority were not aware of the need to update the Christian understanding of Judaism, and perhaps knew very little about the life of the Jewish community. But they had the courage to do what at that time was the right thing: to protect their brother, who was in danger. I would like to emphasise this aspect, because if it is true that it is important, on both sides, to study, in depth, theological reflections through dialogue, it is also true that there is a dialogue of life, that of everyday experience, which is no less important. Indeed, without this, without a real and concrete culture of encounter, which leads to authentic relationships, which exist without prejudice and suspicion, the engagement in the intellectual field would serve little purpose. Here also, as I often like to underline, the People of God has its own intuition and realises the path God asks them to travel."
"I hope to contribute here in Rome to this closeness and friendship, as I did with the Jewish community of Buenos Aires. Among the many things that we may have in common, there is a witness to the truth of the ten words, the Decalogue, as a solid foundation and source of life for our society, so disoriented by an extreme diversity of choices and positions, and marked by a relativism which does not have many firm or safe points of reference (cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Synagogue of Rome, January 17, 2010, 5-6)."