Pope Francis raised eyebrows on Friday by supporting the candidacy for sainthood of a French priest whose dossier was put on hold in 2005 because of his alleged anti-Semitic views.
Leon Dehon (1843-1925), founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart order, had been declared venerable in 1997 by pope John Paul II but his beatification — the next step on the path to sainthood — ran into difficulties.
It had been initially scheduled for April 2005 but was delayed by John Paul II’s death. Attempts to revive his case stalled under Francis’s predecessor Benedict XVI, who set up a commission to investigate the allegations of anti-Semitism.
But Francis told a Priests of the Sacred Heart delegation on Friday that he wanted the beatification process to “end well” and insisted Dehon’s attitude be placed in a historical context, according to religious news agency I.Media.
“It’s a hermeneutic problem… We must study a historic situation with the hermeneutic of the time rather than of today,” he said.
In his 1898 “Social Catechism”, Dehon wrote that Jews “have maintained their hatred of Christ and… willingly favor all the enemies of the Church.”
According to French newspaper reports from 2005, he described the Talmud as the “manual of the bandit, corruptor, social destroyer” and anti-Semitism as a “sign of hope”.