Pope Francis Monday condemned the “barbaric resurgence” of cases of anti-Semitism in the world, and urged the need to respect each person’s human dignity.
“It is troubling to see, in many parts of the world, an increase in selfishness and indifference, lack of concern for others and the attitude that says life is good as long as it is good for me, and when things go wrong, anger and malice are unleashed,” Pope Francis said Jan. 20.
“This creates a fertile ground for the forms of factionalism and populism we see around us, where hatred quickly springs up,” he said. “Even recently, we have witnessed a barbaric resurgence of cases of anti-Semitism. Once more I firmly condemn every form of anti-Semitism.”
Pope Francis met with a delegation from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, ahead of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The pope recalled his visit to the Nazi concentration camp in Poland in 2016:
“I went there to reflect and to pray in silence. In our world, with its whirlwind of activity, we find it hard to pause, to look within and to listen in silence to the plea of suffering humanity.”
“If we lose our memory, we destroy our future. May the anniversary of the unspeakable cruelty that humanity learned of 75 years ago serve as a summons to pause, to be still and to remember. We need to do this, lest we become indifferent,” Pope Francis said.
Between 1940 and 1945, the Nazi regime murdered 1.1 million people in Auschwitz concentration camp, many killed in the gas chambers immediately upon arrival at the camp. Six million Jews died in the Holocaust.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, headquartered in Los Angeles, is dedicated to Holocaust research and education, as well as combatting contemporary anti-Semitism. It was founded by Rabbi Marvin Hier in 1977.
Named for Holocaust-survivor and famed Nazi-hunter, Simon Wiesenthal, the center operates museums in California and Israel, and produces educational documentary films.
“Your center, active throughout the world, seeks to combat all forms of anti-Semitism, racism and hatred towards minorities. For decades, you have maintained contacts with the Holy See, in a shared desire to make the world a better place in respect for human dignity,” Pope Francis said.
“This dignity is due to every person in equal measure, regardless of his or her ethnic origin, religion or social status. It is essential to teach tolerance, mutual understanding and freedom of religion, and the promotion of peace within society,” he said.
Pope Francis pointed to the Second Vatican Council declaration Nostra Aetate, which affirms the great spiritual patrimony shared among Christian and Jewish believers.
“I feel that we, above all, are summoned, especially today, to such service: not to take the path of distance and exclusion, but that of proximity and inclusion; not to force solutions, but to initiate ways of drawing closer together,” the pope said, calling for cooperation among Catholics and Jews in defense of the most vulnerable.
The pope said that in order to combat the root causes of anti-Semitism today “we must commit ourselves also to tilling the soil in which hatred grows and sowing peace instead.”
Anti-Semitic violence and harassment has been on the rise in Europe, particularly in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium, according to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.
Pope Francis has frequently spoken out against anti-Semitism. In March 2019, he said it is important to be “vigilant” against anti-Semitic attitudes, to prevent another event like the Holocaust.
“I stress that for a Christian any form of anti-Semitism is a rejection of one’s own origins, a complete contradiction,” Pope Francis said.