Catholic World News

Jewish groups outraged at papal preacher’s Good Friday homily; Holy See distances itself

April 05, 2010

Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, provoked international controversy for his April 2 remarks comparing recent criticism of the Church to the “collective violence” suffered by Jews. Towards the conclusion of his Good Friday homily in St. Peter’s Basilica, Father Cantalamessa preached:

By a rare coincidence, this year our Easter falls on the same week of the Jewish Passover which is the ancestor and matrix within which it was formed. This pushes us to direct a thought to our Jewish brothers. They know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence and also because of this they are quick to recognize the recurring symptoms. I received in this week the letter of a Jewish friend and, with his permission, I share here a part of it.

He said: "I am following with indignation the violent and concentric attacks against the Church, the Pope and all the faithful by the whole world. The use of stereotypes, the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism. Therefore I desire to express to you personally, to the Pope and to the whole Church my solidarity as Jew of dialogue and of all those that in the Jewish world (and there are many) share these sentiments of brotherhood. Our Passover and yours undoubtedly have different elements, but we both live with Messianic hope that surely will reunite us in the love of our common Father. I wish you and all Catholics a Good Easter."

Representatives of Jewish organizations strongly criticized Father Cantalamessa’s remarks, as did abuse victims.

“It is repulsive, obscene and most of all offensive toward all abuse victims as well as to all the victims of the Holocaust,” said Stephan Kramer, general-secretary of Germany’s Central Council of Jews. “So far I haven’t seen St. Peter burning, nor were there outbursts of violence against Catholic priests. I’m without words. The Vatican is now trying to turn the perpetrators into victims.”

“To invoke the issue of persecution against Jews as a lever to try and deflect attention from the crisis inside the Catholic Church is not only unfortunate, but simply stunning,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. “There can be no justification for referring to centuries of Jewish suffering, persecution and death at the hands of anti-Semites and the Catholic sexual abuse crisis in the same breath.”

“Linking to two entirely distinct issues, much less suggesting that those in the church accused of either practicing or condoning sexual abuse are themselves the target of an equivalent of anti-Semitism, is a grave disservice to the truth -- and to history, past and present,” Harris added.

Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, issued a statement distancing the Holy See from the papal preacher’s remarks.

“Father Lombardi said the Holy See does not consider the recent criticism of the Pope over the Church’s handling of abuse of minors by priests to be in any ways similar to anti-Semitism,” Vatican Radio reported on Holy Saturday. “He went on to explain that Father Cantalamessa himself intended only to share an expression of solidarity from a Jewish brother.”

Father Cantalamessa then apologized for his remarks.

“If, against my intention, I’ve hurt the Jewish people’s feelings and those of the victims of child abuse, I’m truly sorry and ask forgiveness,” he said in an Easter Sunday interview.


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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Apr. 05, 2010 10:00 PM ET USA

    This all might be true in the technical sense, that is, Fr Cantalamessa has letter a Jewish friend, stating what he quoted, but that doesn't excuse the ignorance of the foreseeable consequences of repeating the parallel to antisemitism to a global audience. Anti-Catholic bigotry certainly does exist but this speech doesn't give an insight into it, rather, it unintentionally fuels it as the comment boxes all over the internet indicate.

  • Posted by: Miss Cathy - Apr. 05, 2010 12:43 PM ET USA

    I'm praying the Divine Mercy Novena in preparation for the Feast of Divine Mercy. I'm no great theologian, but offer that this chaplet acknowledges that we offer to The Eternal Father, The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, not only as atonement for our sins, but the sins of the whole world. While we do acknowledge the need for personal responsibility in this situation, are we not also called to collective atonement?

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Apr. 05, 2010 8:10 AM ET USA

    The comparison was made by a Jew. The various people and groups who are outraged should direct their anger toward him. All Fr. Cantalamessa did was read part of his letter. And his friend's remark about "the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt" is a good point.