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
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
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)
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