Pope Francis lamented that anti-Semitism is still present in our day, even as the world marks important anniversaries of some of the most tragic events in Jewish history.
Receiving on November 5 a delegation from the World Congress of Mountain Jews, the pope recalled his recent meeting with the Jewish community in Lithuania, which commemorated 75 years after the destruction of the Vilnius ghetto.
“The Holocaust must be commemorated so that there will be a living memory of the past,” the pope said. “Without a living memory, there will be no future, for if the darkest pages of history do not teach us to avoid the same errors, human dignity will remain a dead letter.”
He went on to note two other anniversaries: The October 16th anniversary (also 75 years) of the raid on the Roman ghetto, and the upcoming November 9 anniversary (80th) of the Kristallnacht, “when many Jewish places of worship were destroyed, not least with the intent of uprooting from the hearts of individuals and a people that which is absolutely inviolable: the presence of the Creator.”
“The attempt to replace the God of goodness with the idolatry of power and the ideology of hatred ended in the folly of exterminating creatures,” the pope said, adding that in this light, we see that “religious freedom is a supreme good to be safeguarded, a fundamental human right, and a bulwark against the claims of totalitarianism.”
The Holy Father went on to lament that anti-Semitic attitudes continue to be present in our own times.
“As I have often repeated,” he said, “a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite; we share the same roots. It would be a contradiction of faith and life. Rather, we are called to commit ourselves to ensure anti-Semitism is banned from the human community.”
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The Bishop of Rome said that the friendship between Jews and Catholics is “based on a fraternity grounded in the history of salvation,” finding “concrete expression in concern for one another.” He spoke of the call to “promote and to expand interreligious dialogue for the sake of humanity.” Citing Isaiah, he said that dialogue and prayer are “our means of turning ‘spears into pruning hooks’ (cf. Is 2:4), so as to give rise to love where there is hatred, and forgiveness where there is offense, without ever growing weary of imploring and tracing the ways of peace.”
“I ask the Almighty to bless our journey of friendship and trust, so that we can dwell always in peace and be, wherever we find ourselves, artisans and builders of peace,” he concluded. “Shalom aleichem!”
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