Citing Erosion of ‘Mutual Respect,’ Catholic Church in France Issues Clarion Call Against Antisemitism

A French soldier stands in front of Notre Dame church, where a knife attack took place, in Nice, France, Oct. 29, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Eric Gaillard / Pool.

The leading bishops of the Catholic Church in France published an emotional declaration against antisemitism on Monday, emphasizing that the “importance of the Jewish roots of Christianity must be recalled now more than ever.”

The declaration — signed by Monseigneur Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the Conference of Bishops of France, and four of his senior colleagues — was unveiled at a short ceremony on Monday in the presence of French Jewish leaders.

The text noted that France had been shocked by the brutal murder of four people last year at the hands of Islamist assailants: high school teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded in broad daylight in a Paris street on Oct. 16, and three worshipers at a church in Nice, one of whom was beheaded, on Oct. 29.  These terrorist attacks had confronted the French people with basic questions of mutual respect, the text argued.

“In this context, the bishops call for special attention to be paid to the worrying resurgence of antisemitism in France,” the declaration asserted.

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“Today, they strongly reiterate how much the fight against antisemitism must be everybody’s business and they affirm their willingness to work with all those and all those engaged in this struggle,” it continued.

Calling for “spiritual resistance against antisemitism,” the declaration said that while “faith in Jesus distinguishes and separates us, it obliges us also, in memory of the terribly dark hours of history and in preserving the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and antisemitic killings in recent decades, to recognize this: healing from antisemitism and anti-Judaism is the indispensable foundation for a genuine fraternity on a universal scale.”

The bishops’ declaration was warmly welcomed by French Jewish leaders.

Joel Mergui, president of the Israelite Consistory, said that he had read the declaration with “deep emotion,” adding that the church’s opposition to antisemitism “brings our hearts closer together.

The Chief Rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, praised what he called a “prophetic initiative,” while Francis Kalifat — president of Jewish communal body CRIF — compared the declaration’s significance to the historic 1997 apology made to the Jewish community by the Catholic Church in France for its widespread passivity and indifference towards the plight of Jews during the Nazi occupation of France.


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