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Netanyahu Praises Pope's Exoneration of Jews

Thursday, 03 Mar 2011 12:05 PM

 

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JERUSALEM, March 3 (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent Pope Benedict a letter on Thursday applauding his personal exoneration of Jews of allegations they were responsible for Jesus Christ's death.

"Your Holiness, I commend you for forcefully rejecting in your recent book a false charge that has been the foundation for the hatred of the Jewish people for many centuries," Netanyahu wrote in the letter released by the Prime Minister's Office.

"My fervent hope is that your clarity and courage will strengthen the relations between Jews and Christians throughout the world and help promote peace and reconciliation for generations to come," he wrote, echoing praise from Jewish groups.

The pope made his complex theological and biblical evaluation in a section of the second volume of his book "Jesus of Nazareth", which will be published next week. The Vatican released brief excerpts on Wednesday.

Benedict named the "Temple aristocracy", and not all the Jews of the time, as the "real group of accusers" who wanted Jesus condemned to death for declaring himself king of the Jews.

It was believed to be the first time a pope had made such a detailed dissection and close comparison of various New Testament accounts of Jesus's condemnation to death by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.

The Roman Catholic Church officially repudiated the idea of collective Jewish guilt for Christ's death in a major document by the Second Vatican Council in 1965.

Benedict, elected in 2005, has had his share of problems in Christian-Jewish relations.

In 2009, he decided to advance wartime Pope Pius XII on the path towards sainthood by recognising his "heroic virtues".

Many Jews accuse Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, of having turned a blind eye to the Holocaust. The Vatican says he worked quietly behind the scenes because speaking out would have led to Nazi reprisals against Catholics and Jews in Europe.

Jews responded angrily last year when the pope said in another book that Pius was "one of the great righteous men and that he saved more Jews than anyone else".

Jews have asked that the process that could lead to making Pius a saint be frozen until after all the Vatican archives from the period are opened and studied. (Writing by Jeffrey Heller, additional reporting by Philip Pullella in Rome; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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