Pope book says Jews not guilty of Jesus Christ's death

Wed Mar 2, 2011 3:48pm EST
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, in a new book, has personally exonerated Jews of allegations they were responsible for Jesus Christ's death, repudiating the concept of collective guilt that has haunted Christian-Jewish relations for centuries.

Jewish groups applauded the move. The Anti-Defamation League called it "an important and historic moment" and hoped that it would help complicated theology "translate down to the pews" to improve grass roots inter-religious dialogue.

The pope makes 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.

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.

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.

"Now we must ask: Who exactly were Jesus' accusers?" the pope asks, adding that the gospel of St John simply says it was "the Jews."

"But John's use of this expression does not in any way indicate -- as the modern reader might suppose -- the people of Israel in general, even less is it 'racist' in character," he writes.

"After all John himself was ethnically a Jew, as were Jesus and all his followers. The entire early Christian community was made up of Jews," he writes.   Continued...

<p>Pope Benedict XVI looks at bishops during his Wednesday general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican March 2, 2011. REUTERS/Tony Gentile</p>