In an address to the Anti-Defamation League Thursday, Pope Francis denounced the “widespread” anti-Semitism in the world today, while recommitting the Catholic Church to “repel anti-Semitic tendencies.”
Speaking in the Hall of Popes in the Vatican, Francis recalled his visit last year to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. “There are no adequate words or thoughts in the face of such horrors of cruelty and sin,” the Pope said. “There is prayer, that God may have mercy and that such tragedies may never happen again.”
Calling to mind his predecessor Pope John Paul II, Francis said that “memory” must be enabled to play its necessary part in shaping a future “in which the unspeakable iniquity of the Shoah will never again be possible,” a future of “genuine respect for the life and dignity of every people and every human being.”
“Sadly, anti-Semitism, which I again denounce in all its forms as completely contrary to Christian principles and every vision worthy of the human person, is still widespread today,” Francis said, adding that “the Catholic Church feels particularly obliged to do all that is possible with our Jewish friends to repel anti-Semitic tendencies.”
The Pope also stressed that “protection of the weakest” is essential for the fight against anti-Semitism. “Caring for the sacred gift of all human life and safeguarding its dignity, from conception to death, is the best way of preventing every type of violence,” he said.
He also praised the mutual friendship and fraternity that now exists between Jews and Catholics. “With the Psalmist we too can say: ‘Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!’” he said.
Since the beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis has several times decried the evil of anti-Semitism, while defending the right of the State of Israel to exist.
In October, 2015, the Pope said that direct attacks on Jews are not the only form of anti-Semitism, but that attacks on the State of Israel and its right to exist are also anti-Semitism.
“To attack Jews is anti-Semitism, but an outright attack on the State of Israel is also anti-Semitism,” Francis said to delegates from the World Jewish Congress (WJC). “There may be political disagreements between governments and on political issues, but the State of Israel has every right to exist in safety and prosperity,” he said.
“We are strangers no more, but friends, and brothers and sisters. Even with our different perspectives, we confess one God, Creator of the Universe and Lord of history,” Francis said on an earlier occasion.
All Christians “have Jewish roots,” he said, even though different Christian confessions have approached Judaism in different ways.
“The Christian confessions find their unity in Christ; Judaism finds its unity in the Torah. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Word of God made flesh in the world; for Jews the Word of God is present above all in the Torah,” he said.
What draws Christians and Jews together, the Pope declared, is that both faith traditions “find their foundation in the One God, the God of the Covenant, who reveals himself through his Word.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome