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February 5, 2015 12:53 pm

Jewish 100, 2014: Pope Francis I – Religion

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Pope Francis. Photo: Casa Rosada via Wikimedia Commons.

Pope Francis I

Leader of the Catholic Church

For the world’s first Latin American pope, the Argentine-born Francis I, a close relationship with the Jewish community isn’t merely a political imperative, but a religious one as well. As he stated in a 2014 interview with a Spanish newspaper, “inside every Christian is a Jew.” Hailing the Judeo-Christian symbiosis has compelled Pope Francis to revisit some of the more pained episodes in the relationship between the two faiths, such as the record of the wartime Pope Pius XII, whose “many mistakes,” he said, “must be read in the context of the time.” Additionally, speaking out against rising antisemitism is something he regards as integral to his role. “It’s a contradiction that a Christian is antisemitic: His roots are Jewish,” he declared emphatically in a 2013 radio address. A modest, unassuming man, when asked about how he’d like to be remembered, Pope Francis answered simply, “He was a good guy, he did what he could, and he was not that bad.” In his first visit to Israel, Pope Francis I’s comments and actions pleased many Jews, and exemplified his leadership. At the start of his May 2014 visit, he veered from his prepared text and appropriately referred to a terror attack in Belgium a few days earlier as a “criminal act of antisemitic hatred.” “With a deeply pained heart, I think of those who have lost their lives in the cruel attack that occurred yesterday in Brussels,” the pope added. “I entrust the victims to God’s mercy and invoke recovery for the injured.” Moreover, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli people were particularly moved by the pope’s decision during his visit to lay a wreath on the grave of Theodor Herzl.

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