Israeli rabbis accuse the Pope of ‘teaching contempt towards Jews,’ Vatican shrugs it off

Pope Francis faced criticism from several Israeli rabbis after his comments about the Torah a month ago. They accused Francis of suggesting that their scripture was obsolete. As a result, they asked him in a letter to clarify his comments. Now, the Vatican wrote its response on Friday, claiming Francis comments did not apply to modern Judaism, but to Christians instead.

The Law According to Francis

At the time, Francis was speaking to a general audience at the Vatican. He paraphrased what St. Paul said about the Torah in the New Testament. Later, he also tweeted a similar sentiment.

“The law however does not give life,” Pope Francis said of the first five books in the Bible, also known as the Torah. “It does not offer the fulfillment of the promise because it is not capable of being able to fulfill it . . . Those who seek life need to look to the promise and to its fulfillment in Christ.”

Then, chair of the Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel for Dialogue with the Holy See Rabbi Rasson Arousi wrote a letter demanding clarification.

“In his homily, the pope presents the Christian faith as not just superseding the Torah; but asserts that the latter no longer gives life, implying that Jewish religious practice in the present era is rendered obsolete,” Arousi said in the letter. “This is in effect part and parcel of the ‘teaching of contempt’ towards Jews and Judaism that we had thought had been fully repudiated by the Church,” he said.

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The Vatican’s Response

Cardinal Kurt Koch penned a letter in response, obtained by Reuters. His department covers religious relations with Jews. He rejected the notion that the Pope was making any declarative statement about Jews.

“The abiding Christian conviction is that Jesus Christ is the new way of salvation. However, this does not mean that the Torah is diminished or no longer recognised as the ‘way of salvation for Jews,’” Koch wrote. “In his catechesis the Holy Father does not make any mention of modern Judaism . . . The fact that the Torah is crucial for modern Judaism is not questioned in any way.”

Now, Pope Francis’ full address remains on YouTube.

You can follow Jenny Goldsberry on Twitter @jennyjournalism.

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