Pope Francis sent a letter of support “to the Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel” dated February 2, made public by the Vatican, on February 3 where he deplores that one of the consequences of the war in the “Holy Land” in the “global public opinions” are expressed through “forms of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism.”
He therefore recalls the “refusal of any form of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism” of the Catholic Church which “unequivocally condemns manifestations of hatred against Jews and Judaism”, which “are a sin against God”.
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Pope Francis also expresses the “great concern of Catholics” in the face of the “terrible increase in attacks against Jews throughout the world”, calling for “ever closer collaboration to eradicate the phenomenon”, particularly among “the youngest”. In France, for example, acts of anti-Semitism officially referenced by public authorities increased from 436 in 2022 to 1,676 acts in 2023, an almost four-fold increase.
Referring to “the unprecedented spiral of violence” into which the “Holy Land has been precipitated since October 7,” the pope confides that his “heart is lacerated” by “the power of so much division and so much hatred.” It expresses a “special closeness and affection for the peoples who inhabit this land.” He specifies that if the relationship which binds the Church with the Jews is “particular” it “never leads to obscuring, naturally, the relationship which the Church maintains with others”. Addressing “Israelis and Palestinians,” the Pope prays that “the desire for peace prevails among all.”
The head of the Catholic Church finally evokes what is a possible explanation for this letter as unexpected as it is relatively new in its form: He says he received “numerous messages and letters” from “friends and Jewish organizations around the world whole, which I appreciate very much” and to whom he responds with this public letter by “embracing each one” and in particular “those who are consumed by anguish, pain, fear and hatred”. This two-page letter is above all a response to theologian Karma Ben Johanan, professor at the Jewish University of Jerusalem and promoter of a recent appeal addressed to the pope, signed by some 400 rabbis and academics, for the strengthening of friendship Judeo-Christian.
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He recognizes that “words are difficult to formulate in the face of this tragedy”. But there remains the prayer: “mourning with you the dead and the wounded, those who are traumatized, we beg God the Father to intervene to put an end to war and hatred, and to the endless cycles that imperil the whole world". He also says “pray in a special way for the return of the hostages”, “rejoicing” for those who have returned.
Finally, he recalls that “we must never lose hope that peace is possible”. It goes through prayer but also through “cooperation” of which “Catholics and Jews” are already the “witnesses”. In the “Holy Land” this cooperation “where we want to work for peace and justice” could “create relationships capable of opening new horizons of light to all, Israelis and Palestinians.” He therefore asks “Jews and Catholics to engage in this journey of friendship, solidarity and cooperation to repair a destroyed world” and to “rediscover the capacity to see in the face of every person an image of God, who created us.”