WJC leaders with Pope Francis

Pope Francis reaffirmed Israel’s right to exist at a meeting with Jewish leaders held on the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, a church document which put an end to the Catholic charge of Jewish deicide.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis. (AP/Gregorio Borgia)

Anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism, Pope Francis stated at a meeting with Jewish community leaders. The meeting was held in honor of the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, a Catholic Church document that declared the Jews are not responsible for the death of Jesus.

“To attack Jews is anti-Semitism, but an outright attack on the State of Israel is also anti-Semitism,” the Pope told a World Jewish Congress (WJC) delegation. “There may be political disagreements between governments and on political issues, but the State of Israel has every right to exist in safety and prosperity.”

Pope Francis met with the Jewish leaders in a special session following his usual Wednesday public audience. The WJC delegation, as well as representatives of other religious communities participated in the session. The WJC Governing Board decided to hold its annual meeting in Rome in honor of the event.

“Pope Francis does not simply make declarations. He inspires people with his warmth and his compassion. His clear and unequivocal support for the Jewish people is critical to us,” WJC President Ronald S. Lauder stated.

Nostra Aetate is one of the most important documents to come out of the Second Vatican Council reforms of the 1960s. It reversed the Catholic doctrine that the Jewish people as a whole bear the responsibility for the death of Jesus, who was crucified by the notorious Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate. Pilate was eventually recalled to Rome for his brutality.

“True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today,” the document read.

Nostra Aetate nonetheless calls for Jews to convert to Catholicism, saying, “Let us pray also for the faithless Jews: that almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord.”

In the Eastern Orthodox Church and Byzantine Catholic churches, the Holy Thursday liturgy still rails against “the murderers of God, the lawless nation of the Jews.”

By: Sara Abramowicz, United with Israel