Current “anti-Semitic trends in Europe” are a cause for worry, said Pope Francis Monday morning, as are accompanying “acts of hatred and violence.”
In a historic encounter, Francis met in the Vatican with a delegation from the Conference of European Rabbis, the first time a pope has ever met with the Conference.
The Pope underscored that all Christians “must be firm in deploring all forms of anti-Semitism, and in showing their solidarity with the Jewish people.” He also remarked on the recent seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the concentration camp “which has come to be synonymous with the great tragedy of the Shoah.”
“The memory of what took place there, in the heart of Europe, is a warning to present and future generations,” he said.
“Acts of hatred and violence against Christians and the faithful of other religions must likewise be condemned everywhere,” he added.
Pope Francis also proposed that in the face of rampant secularism in Europe and other parts of the world, Jews and Christians have a co-responsibility to keep faith in God alive. Both Jews and Christians, he said, have “the blessing but also the responsibility to help preserve the religious sense of the men and women of today, and that of our society.”
European society, he said, is “increasingly marked by secularism and threatened by atheism,” and “we run the risk of living as if God did not exist.”
People are often tempted to take the place of God, to consider themselves the criterion of all things, to control them, to use everything according to their own will. It is so important to remember, however, that our life is a gift from God, and that we must depend on Him, confide in Him, and turn towards Him always.
This means that “it is more important than ever to emphasize the spiritual and religious dimension of human life,” he said.
The Pope appealed for a common Judeo-Christian witness “to the sanctity of God and human life.” God is holy, he said, “and the life He has given is holy and inviolable.”
Francis noted that for almost fifty years, “the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community has progressed in a systematic way,” which calls for gratitude to the Lord, “rejoicing in our progress and in the friendship which has grown between us,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.