Pope Francis told an international conference on anti-Semitism that we must fight against “hatred in all of its forms, but even more fundamentally, indifference.”
The one-day conference, sponsored by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), discussed the ‘Responsibility of States, Institutions and Individuals in the Fight against Anti-Semitism,’ and took place two days after International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
In his remarks, the pope said he wanted to emphasize the word ‘responsibility.’
“We are responsible when we are able to respond. It is not merely a question of analyzing the causes of violence and refuting their perverse reasoning, but of being actively prepared to respond to them,” Francis said. “Thus, the enemy against which we fight is not only hatred in all of its forms, but even more fundamentally, indifference; for it is indifference that paralyzes and impedes us from doing what is right even when we know that it is right.”
The OSCE was founded in 1973 – the Vatican was a founding member – as a meeting point for Western European countries and the Communist East; since the end of the Cold War it has worked to promote democracy and conflict prevention.
Italy took over the chairmanship of the organization in 2018 and launched the Italian edition of the document Understanding Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes and Addressing the Security Needs of Jewish Communities at Monday’s conference.
Francis said International Holocaust Remembrance Day was needed “to recover our humanity, to recover our human understanding of reality and to overcome so many deplorable forms of apathy towards our neighbor.”
“I do not grow tired of repeating that indifference is a virus that is dangerously contagious in our time, a time when we are ever more connected with others, but are increasingly less attentive to others,” the pope said. “And yet the global context should help us understand that none of us is an island and none will have a future of peace without one that is worthy for all.”
A European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights survey on Jewish people’s experiences and perceptions of discrimination, hate crime and anti-semitism released in January 2017 said that “in the 12 months prior to the survey, almost half of the respondents (46 percent) worry about being verbally insulted or harassed in a public place because they are Jewish, and one third (33 percent) worry about being physically attacked in the country where they live because they are Jewish.”
The EU agency is planning a major anti-semitism survey for 2018, covering Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The survey comes as Poland is debating legislation that would outlaw blaming Poles for the crimes of the Holocaust, including referring to German death camps located on Polish territory as “Polish camps.” The proposed legislation has been criticized by Jewish groups and free speech advocates.
During his speech, Francis recalled “the roar of the deafening silence” during his visit to the death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland in 2016, calling it “a disturbing silence that leaves space only for tears, for prayer and for the begging of forgiveness.”
The pope said Jews and Christians need “a common memory, living and faithful, that should not remain imprisoned in resentment.”
“Indeed, to prepare a truly human future, rejecting evil is not enough; we need to build the common good together,” the pope said.