Pope denounces ‘depraved’ anti-Semitism and urges dialogue
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Pope denounces ‘depraved’ anti-Semitism and urges dialogue

Francis laments that meeting with American Jewish leaders takes place amid a ‘climate of wickedness and fury;’ pontiff thanked for opening Vatican archive on Holocaust-era pope

Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Basilica of Saint Sabina in Rome Wednesday, March 6, 2019.  (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Basilica of Saint Sabina in Rome Wednesday, March 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

VATICAN CITY  — Pope Francis denounced the “depraved hatred” behind a wave of anti-Semitic attacks in parts of the world and said interfaith dialogue can help counter it.

Francis met Friday with a delegation of the American Jewish Committee and praised their longstanding good relations.

He lamented that their meeting was taking place amid the spread of a “climate of wickedness and fury, in which an excessive and depraved hatred is taking root.”

And he warned that for Christians, any form of anti-Semitism is “a rejection of one’s own origins, a complete contradiction.”

The meeting came a day after the US House passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other bigotry prompted by Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent comments suggesting House supporters of Israel have dual allegiances.

The resolution passed Thursday condemns anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against minorities “as hateful expressions of intolerance.”

The seven-page document details a history of recent attacks not only against Jews in the United States but also Muslims, as it condemns all such discrimination as contradictory to “the values and aspirations” of the people of the United States.

The audience also occurred days after Francis responded to longstanding requests from Jewish groups to open the Vatican archives of its World War II-era pope, Pius XII, who has faced accusations of having failed to speak out enough against the Holocaust.

Francis didn’t refer publicly to Pius, whom the Vatican has long defended as having used quiet diplomacy to save lives.

AJC President John Shapiro (Courtesy/AJC)

The president of the AJC, John Shapiro, did, thanking Francis for opening the archives starting in 2020.

“We look forward especially to the involvement of the leading Holocaust memorial institutes in Israel and the US to objectively evaluate as best as possible the historical record of that most terrible of times, to acknowledge both the failures as well as valiant efforts during the period of the Shoah,” Shapiro said.

Pius was elected pontiff on March 2, 1939, six months before World War II erupted in Europe. Pius died on October 9, 1958, at the Vatican summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome.

The Vatican usually waits 70 years after the end of a pontificate to open up the relevant archives. But the Holy See has been under pressure to make the Pius XII documentation available sooner and while Holocaust survivors are still alive.

Vatican archivists had already started preparing the documentation for consultation in 2006, at the behest of Francis’s German-born predecessor, Benedict XVI.

Pius has been accused by historians and Jewish groups of failing to speak out against the Holocaust, failing to commit the Church to saving Jews amid the genocide, and encouraging the conversion of Jews to Catholicism during the period.

In this file photo dated September 1945, pope Pius XII, wearing the ring of St. Peter, raises his right hand in a papal blessing at the Vatican. (AP Photo, File)

The Vatican has defended him, saying he used behind-the-scenes diplomacy to try to save lives. Francis indicated he, too, embraced that interpretation.

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