Jews not all to blame for death of Jesus, says Pope
Pope Benedict has exonerated the Jewish people for the death of Christ, insisting that they must not be collectively blamed for his death.
In a study he has written of Christ's life, 'Jesus of Nazareth', Pope Benedict XVI said those at fault were the small number of Jewish priests and leaders who called for Christ's crucifixion.
The Catholic Church has maintained for decades that Jews were not responsible for Christ's execution, most notably in 1965 with a document titled 'Nostra Aetate'.
While some of the Gospels refer to all Jewish people calling for Christ's crucifixion, it was in fact the "temple aristocracy", who demanded his crucifixion after his trial by Pontius Pilate, the Pope wrote. In doing so, he challenged interpretations of the Bible which have been used for centuries to justify the persecution of Jews.
"St Matthew attributes the request for the crucifixion of Jesus to 'all the people'. But he cannot be stating a historical fact: how could the entire Jewish people have been present at this moment to call for the death of Jesus?" the Pope wrote.
"The historical reality appears in St John and St Mark. The true accusers were those circulating in the temple."
The Vatican has released extracts of the book ahead of its full publication on March 10.
It was believed to be the first time a pope had made such a detailed dissection of various New Testament accounts of Jesus's condemnation to death.
Elan Steinberg, vice-president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, welcomed the pope's words. "This is a major step forward. This is a personal repudiation of the theological underpinning of centuries of anti-Semitism," he said.
"This pope has categorically stated that the canard that Jews were Christ killers is a gross theological lie and this is most welcome". (© Daily Telegraph, London)