Pope Francis Denounces All Violence In The Name Of Religion During Synagogue Visit

Pope Francis took the stage today in a landmark visit to a Rome synagogue in a show of interfaith solidarity, according to a report from the Vancouver Sun.

While there, referencing recent religiously-motivated attacks and hate crimes around the world, the Pope spoke out against all violence inspired by religion, condemning it all equally. He also extended his condemnation to hate based on one’s “origins,” referencing the fact that much recent anti-Islamic violence has been racially-motivated.

“Violence of man against man is in contradiction to every religion that merits the name, in particular the three monotheistic religions. Every human being, as a creature of God, is our brother regardless of his origins or religious belief.”

The Pope’s remarks came just hours after news of a massacre of over 300 people in ISIS’ attack on Deir el-Zour, Syria (as reported by CBC,) fanned new flames of anti-Muslim sentiment across the world.

Pope Francis called for “maximum vigilance” and early intervention to prevent another Holocaust from happening; a sentiment that drew approval from a group of Holocaust survivors in attendance.

The synagogue was filled to capacity for Pope Francis' visit.
The synagogue was filled to capacity for Pope Francis’ visit. [Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images]
Riccardo Di Segni, Rome’s chief rabbi, echoed the Pope’s thoughts.

“Today, the sad novelty is that after two centuries of disasters produced by nationalism and ideologies, violence has come back and it is fed and justified by fanatic visions inspired by religion. A meeting of peace between different religious communities, as the one that is taking place today here in Rome, is a very strong sign against the invasion and abuse of religious violence.”

The Pope joined in a standing ovation when the Holocaust survivors were singled out for applause and received an ovation of his own from the Holocaust survivors when he paused in his anti-violence remarks to acknowledge them in turn.

Pope Francis and Rabbi Di Segni shared similar sentiments.
Pope Francis greets Holocaust survivors wearing striped scarves reminiscent of their prison uniforms. [(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images]
The Pope also acknowledged that the “Nostra Aetate,” a Vatican Council document which came into effect 50 years ago, was a “‘yes’ to the rediscovery of the of the Jewish roots of Christianity and a ‘no’ to every form of anti-Semitism and a condemnation of every insult, discrimination and persecution that is derived from it,” and said that the Jewish people were the “elder brothers” and, notably, “elder sisters” of the Christians.

He referred to the Jewish people as “victims of the most inhuman barbarism, perpetrated in the name of an ideology that wanted to replace God with man,” and referred to the Holocaust as The Shoah, its Hebrew name. His remarks and humble attitude stood in sharp contrast to Pope Benedict’s visit in 2010, wherein he defended his predecessor, Pope Pius XII, who was Pope at the time of World War II. Pope Francis did not mention Pope Pious XII at all.

According to Vatican Radio, the Pope recalled the tragedy that was the Holocaust and said that it must serve as a lesson for the present and for the future, and that along with theological issues, religious people should not lose sight of the challenges facing today’s world and called on everyone involved in the dialogue to promote and defend human life.

Pope Francis’ visit began with his laying a wreath at a plaque outside of the synagogue, marking the location where the Nazis rounded up Roman Jews in 1943, and another at a plaque in memory of the killing of a 2-year-old boy when the synagogue was attacked by Palestinians in 1982, and met with members of the boy’s family and other survivors of the attack before entering the synagogue to applause.

During the ceremony, the two leaders exchange gifts.
During the ceremony, the two leaders exchange gifts. [Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images]
While tensions still exist between the Vatican and the Jewish community over Rome’s acknowledgment of and treaty with “the state of Palestine,” the Pope’s visit reaffirmed Catholic-Jewish relations and sent a strong message about religiously- and racially-motivated violence.

[AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino]