Catholic senior archbishops from around the world have urged followers of Christ to actively fight the rise of anti-Semitism amid increasing hate crimes and other incidents targeting Jews in the United States and elsewhere. The call was made at an online event hosted by the Combat Antisemitism Movement to celebrate the heroic actions of Monsignor Giuseppe Placido Nicolini. Nicolini helped save hundreds of Jewish lives during the Holocaust by allowing Jews fleeing Nazi deportation to be housed in the Italian city of Assisi, in what has been termed the “Assisi Network.” Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich condemned the troubling increase in hate-filled anti-Semitic language and acts of violence against Jews in recent years. “Christians cannot just be alarmed by anti-Semitism. We must look to the example of Bishop Nicolini and band together in a network of support and protection,” Cupich said in a statement.
“We have come to recognize the deep harm that anti-Semitism causes and a better understanding of its roots. We must create the kind of network formed in Assisi that saved the lives of Jews, but also saved the humanity of those who saved them.” He said Catholics and Jews “must continue to grow together in knowledge and trust of one another through dialogue and shared action.” Secretary General of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union Fr. Manuel Barrio addressed the need to combat the causes of anti-Semitism, including “social distress, uncertainty, fear and the scapegoat mechanism.” “We must acknowledge that we are all brothers and sisters; we belong to the same human family and are called together to take care of one another,” he said. “This is the cure for many of the evils that are afflicting our world today.”
The event highlighted the history of Catholic-Jewish relations since the Holocaust. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, emphasized the need to “never again” remain silent in the face of increasing violence. “‘Never Again’ to turn a blind eye to such violence being enacted in our midst,” he said. In its latest audit of anti-Semitic incidents last April, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found that anti-Semitic incidents reached an all-time high in the U.S. in 2021 with 2,717 incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism reported to ADL. This is the most incidents reported to ADL in a year since it began tracking anti-Semitic incidents in 1979. Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana, Apostolic Nuncio to Israel and Cyprus, said the Catholic Church condemns and combats anti-Semitism in all its forms and is fully committed to fighting it as one of mankind’s oldest, most pernicious and most destructive forms of bigotry and hate.
Mayor of Assisi Stefania Proietti, Ambassador of Israel to the Holy See Raphael Schutz, Chairman of the European March of the Living Benjamin Albalas, CEO of B’nai B’rith International Dan Mariaschin, and Anna Cividalli, a descendant of a saved member of the Jewish community in Italy during the Holocaust, also participated in the event. “In 2023, we stand at a unique point in history. The opportunity for Catholics and Jews at all levels of leadership and laymanship to build meaningful relationships and stand together against hatred as siblings in faith proves evermore paramount,” CAM Partnerships and Diplomatic Relations Manager Catherine Szkop said. “Let’s follow in the footsteps of the holy and righteous men and women who have gone before us to achieve what many claim to be impossible: peace between peoples, and an end to antisemitism and all forms of hate.”
A study conducted among 4,000 respondents last year by the Anti-Defamation League found that nearly one in five Americans believe in at least six negative stereotypes about Jews, compared to around one in nine in 2019. “What these findings represent, what they tell us, and what creates such urgency is the fact that large, huge numbers of Americans hold dangerous, false ideas about the Jewish people,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told reporters at a news conference in January. “While it is very encouraging that the vast majority of our country doesn’t hold these ideas, 50 plus million people is worrisome, and it means we’ve got work to do.” In a 2022 interview, Christian theologian Rev. Lee B. Spitzer, an affiliate professor of church history at Northern Seminary in Illinois, said that Christians wanting to combat anti-Semitism should “reflect on how our own churches or communities expressed anti-Semitism, either consciously or unconsciously, wittingly or unwittingly.”
“Many Christians do and say things that are anti-Semitic because of ignorance,” Spitzer explained. “We are not aware about how some of what we say and do are harmful and hurtful to the Jewish community.” “Relationships are everything. It’s very hard to be prejudiced about a group when you have friends within that group,” he added. “And I would suggest that people in the Church need to reach out to their neighbours, and learn from them.” Scott Phillips, the executive director of Passages Israel, said that churches are not immune to anti-Semitism, calling theological views like Replacement Theology as a likely source of Christian anti-Semitism. He called for Christians to pursue education, relationship and action. “One is just being aware that anti-Semitism exists and really educating ourselves on the history and causes of anti-Semitism,” said Phillips. “I think once you have that, No. 2 is relationships with the Jewish community. Have relationships that are unconditional and that are based on shared values and trust.”
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