Pope’s Jesus book raps religious violence, explains exoneration of Jews

March 10, 2011
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(A priest reads Pope Benedict XVI's book "Jesus of Nazareth" in a book shop in Rome March 10, 2011/Max Rossi )

Pope Benedict has condemned violence committed in God’s name and personally exonerated Jews of responsibility for Jesus’ death in his latest book, released on Thursday. The book, the second in a planned three-part series on the life of Jesus, is a detailed, highly theological and academic recounting of the last week in Jesus’ life.

Publishers have printed 1.2 million copies of the book in seven languages. A blaze of international publicity included teleconferences with the media in several countries.

In one section, Benedict writes that there can be no justification for violence carried out in God’s name, an assertion as applicable to Islamist militancy today as to violence that the Catholic Church itself committed in the past as it spread the faith.

“The cruel consequences of religiously motivated violence are only too evident to us all,” the pope writes. “Violence does not build up the Kingdom of God, the kingdom of humanity.”

The part of the book that may have the most far-reaching effect on Catholic relations with other religions is one in which the pontiff details the events of Christ’s trial before Roman governor Pontius Pilate, and his sentencing to death. In that section, he repudiates the concept of collective guilt of the Jews at the time and of their progeny for Jesus’ death, a charge that has haunted Christian-Jewish relations for centuries.

It was the first time a pope had made such a detailed dissection and close comparison of various New Testament accounts and concluded that there was no basis to the charge, first officially repudiated in a Church document in 1965.

Read the full story here.
Here’s a Reuters video on the book, with my interview with Rome’s Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni and short explanation of the argument the pope makes in the book.


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