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Pope Says Jews Not to Blame for Jesus’ Death

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Jewish people as a whole were not responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion, and their descendants have not inherited blame for his death, Pope Benedict XVI writes in a new book to be published on March 10.
The statements appear in excerpts, which were released Wednesday (March 2), from Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection, the sequel to Benedict’s 2007 best-seller, Jesus of Nazareth.
“Who insisted that Jesus be condemned to death?” Benedict writes in the new book. Noting that the Gospel of John says simply, “the Jews,” Benedict explains that this expression “does not at all indicate — as the modern reader might tend to interpret it — the people of Israel as such, and even less does it have a ‘racist’ character.”
Noting that Jesus and all his original followers were Jews, Benedict writes that the term refers in this case specifically to the “aristocracy of the temple,” or the leading priests who called for Jesus’ death.
Benedict also explains the statement, “may his blood be on us and on our children,” attributed to the Jews in the Gospel of Matthew, is not a curse but actually a kind of blessing.
“The Christian will remember that the blood of Christ … is not spilled against anyone but … for many, for all,” Benedict writes. “Read from the point of view of the faith, this means that we all need the purifying force of love, and that force is his blood. These words are not a curse, but redemption, salvation.”
The book, while not bearing the weight of official church teaching or dogma, is nonetheless likely to help Benedict’s relations with Jews. Critics have questioned his moves to approve a Good Friday prayer that calls for Jews’ salvation, and also to readmit a schismatic bishop who turned out to be a vocal denier of the Holocaust.
Benedict’s statement is consistent with official Catholic teaching on the subject that was overhauled in the 1960s, when the Second Vatican Council declared Jesus’ passion “cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.”
Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called Benedict’s new book an “important and historic moment for Catholic-Jewish relations” that will help transmit longstanding church teaching “down to the pews.”
– Francis X. Rocca, Religion News Service

  • nnmns

    “The Jewish people as a whole were not responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion”
    Well, duh! And of course this is not the first time the RCC has admitted this but it was always way late. The Church’s teaching of “Christ killer” Jews is what allowed the Holocaust to happen. Without people raised believing such terrible things who would have worked in the death camps? Who would allow such a government to stay in power?
    To victimize people you first have to demonize them, and the RCC’s (and I expect Lutheran Church’s) teachings did that. (Intentionally?) A lesson not lost on Rupert Murdock, the Koch brothers and the modern Republican Party.

  • pagansister

    Well, wasn’t that BIG of him, the great Ben? Are they looking to be “forgiven” by the Catholics? IMO, no, but maybe it will help relations between the faiths—

  • cknuck

    silly topic I really can’t figure out why this even comes up time to time.

  • jestrfyl

    So will everyone who feels better about this raise their hands! Anyone? Anyone?
    Even the Gospels make it clear the Roman representative had the deed done. And he insisted on posting a charge that annoyed and embarrassed the Temple authorities (INRI – Iesus Nazarene, Regis Iudea). And they were simply in it for the money. Jews like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea got the message without much interference.
    This was “just” a papal misunderstanding from previous administrations. But it does make the whole infallibility thing look all the more silly.

  • Goodguyex

    In some ways the Jewish identity is better off with a limited amount of demonization. And also necessary seems to be some counter demonization of the pope/Vatican/Catholic Church by the Jews.
    The accolades given to Pope Pius XII by Jewish leaders immediately after WWII proved to be too costly, so ultimately demonization was presented.

  • http://TooObvious Robert T. Gross

    It is amazing to me that the Jews should ever have been blamed for the crucifixion. It is so obvious that only some Jews (if the event actually happened) are responsible, and the actual crucifixion was done by the Romans.

    The apology is more than 1500 years late.

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