After Criticism, Pope Reassures Israeli Jews

Francis expresses concern over antisemitism in letter
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 3, 2024 3:40 PM CST
Pope Assures Israeli Jews of Christian Support
Pope Francis presides over a Mass for the religious orders in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Friday.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis on Saturday reaffirmed Christians' special relationship with Jews amid rising antisemitism since the outbreak of the Gaza war in a letter to the Jews of Israel that he said was prompted by messages from Jewish organizations around the world. The letter served as fence-mending after Francis was criticized for his initial response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the AP reports. Francis said the Holy Land has been "cast into a spiral of unprecedented violence," part of what he referred to as "a sort of 'piecemeal world war,' with serious consequences on the lives of many populations."

"My heart is torn at the sight of what is happening in the Holy Land, by the power of so much division and so much hatred," Francis wrote. "The whole world looks on at what is happening in that land with apprehension and pain." In November, the pope set off a firestorm by using the word "terrorism" during separate, closed meetings with relatives of Israeli hostages in Gaza and Palestinians living through the war. Without elaborating, he said in the letter to Israeli Jews that he was moved by communication from friends and Jewish organizations 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."

Francis said Catholics are concerned about the increase in attacks against Jews around the world. The Catholic Church "rejects every form of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, unequivocally condemning manifestations of hatred towards Jews and Judaism as a sin against God," the pope wrote, per Vatican News. "We had hoped that 'never again' would be a refrain heard by the new generations," he said.

(More Pope Francis stories.)

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