Pope Francis denounced anti-Semitism Wednesday, telling crowds in Saint Peter’s Square that the persecution of the Jewish people is neither human nor Christian.
Reflecting on the biblical book of the Acts of the Apostles, especially regarding the Jewish couple Aquila and Priscilla, who were forced to move from Rome to Corinth after the emperor Claudius ordered the expulsion of the Jews, the pope interrupted his weekly general audience address to speak off the cuff about anti-Semitism.
“The Jewish people have suffered so much in history,” Francis began. “They have been driven away, persecuted… And, in the last century, we saw so many, so many brutalities against the Jewish people and we were all convinced that this was over.”
“But today, the habit of persecuting the Jews is seeing a resurgence here and there,” he said. “Brothers and sisters, this is neither human nor Christian. The Jews are our brothers and sisters! And they must not be persecuted.”
This is not the first time Pope Francis has spoken out strongly against anti-Semitism.
Last March, the pope said he was deeply concerned over a rise in the scourge of anti-Semitism in certain parts of the world and called on Christians to oppose the persecution of Jews.
A “climate of wickedness and fury” is spreading in many places, Francis said, “in which an excessive and depraved hatred is taking root. I think especially of the outbreak of anti-Semitic attacks in various countries.”
“History teaches us where even the slightest perceptible forms of anti-Semitism can lead: the human tragedy of the Shoah in which two-thirds of European Jewry were annihilated,” he said, citing a text from the Catholic Commission for Religious Relations with Jews.
For a Christian, he continued, “any form of antisemitism is a rejection of one’s own origins, a complete contradiction.”
“In the fight against hatred and antisemitism, an important tool is interreligious dialogue, aimed at promoting a commitment to peace, mutual respect, the protection of life, religious freedom, and the care of creation,” he said.
He also encouraged Jews and Christians to delve into their common roots to provide a unified witness to the secular world.
“At a time when the West is exposed to a depersonalizing secularism, it falls to believers to seek out each other and to cooperate in making divine love more visible for humanity; and to carry out concrete gestures of closeness to counter the growth of indifference,” he said.