ROME – Following one of the most brutal attacks on the Jewish community in the history of the United States, Pope Francis condemned anti-Semitic attitudes “present in our own times” and stressed the importance of religious freedom and interreligious dialogue.
“As I have often repeated, a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite; we share the same roots. It would be a contradiction of faith and life,” the pope said during a Nov. 5 audience with delegates of the World Congress of Mountain Jews on their first ever visit to the Vatican.
“Rather, we are called to commit ourselves to ensure anti-Semitism is banned from the human community,” he added.
On Oct. 26, eleven people were killed and many wounded during a shooting at a synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The killer, identified as Robert Bowers, is said to have entered the synagogue carrying an assault rifle and two pistols while yelling “All Jews must die.”
The attack at the synagogue is only the most recent in a spew of violent aggressions and even murders against Jews, as anti-Semitism is on the rise not only in the United States but also in Europe.
Francis recalled his visit to Lithuania in September, where he prayed before a monument commemorating the many who lost their lives during the Holocaust. He also mentioned the raid of the Roman Ghetto during German occupation and the Kristallnacht, which the pope said destroyed places of worship in an effort to erase faith.
The effort to replace God with an “idolatry of power and the ideology of hatred,” underlines the importance of religious freedom, Francis said, which is “a supreme good to be safeguarded, a fundamental human right and a bulwark against the claims of totalitarianism.”
In order to fight anti-Semitism, the friendship between Jews and Christians must be strong, the pope said, something that can be achieved through dialogue. “In these times, we are called to promote and to expand interreligious dialogue for the sake of humanity,” Francis said.
“The Holocaust must be commemorated so that there will be a living memory of the past,” Francis 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.”