Pope Francis has denounced rising anti-Semitism as an attitude that is inhumane and unchristian.
“The Jewish people have suffered so much in history. In the last century, we saw so many brutalities on the Jewish people and we thought that this was over,” he said in St. Peter’s Square on 13 November.
Anti-Semitic violence and harassment has been steadily rising in Europe, particularly in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium, according to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.
In October, a man with anti-Semitic beliefs shot and killed two people at a synagogue in Germany on Yom Kippur, and last year a far-right extremist attacked the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 people.
Other deadly attacks on a Jewish supermarket and a school in France in recent years were linked to the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.
“Today the practice of persecuting the Jews has begun again here and there. Brothers and sisters, this is neither human nor Christian. The Jewish people are our brothers, and they should not be persecuted,” the pope said in a departure from his prepared remarks.
The pope’s comments formed part of his reflection on the Biblical account of the expulsion of the Jewish people from Rome by Emperor Claudius in the first century.
The Acts of the Apostles describes how this order affected a married couple, Priscilla and Aquila, who were forced to move from Rome to Corinth.
Pope Francis praised Priscilla and Aquila as Biblical models of married life, hospitality, and lay evangelisation.
“These spouses prove to have a heart full of faith in God and generous towards others, capable of making room for those who, like them, experience the condition of a foreigner,” he said.
By welcoming Paul into their home in Corinth, Aquila and Priscilla also welcomed the Gospel of Christ, the pope said. “From that moment their home is imbued with the fragrance of the living Word that vivifies the hearts.”
“Even today in some countries where there is no religious freedom and there is no freedom for Christians, Christians gather in a home, some hidden, to pray and celebrate the Eucharist. Even today there are these houses, these families that become a temple for the Eucharist,” the pope added.
Pope Francis described how Aquila and Priscilla travelled with Paul on a missionary journey to Ephesus, and later returned to Rome, as described in the Acts of the Apostles.
The pope noted that this married couple were among the recipients of Paul’s letter to the Romans, where St. Paul described them as “my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks to save my life.”
“How many families in times of persecution risk their necks to keep the persecuted hidden,” the pope added. “This is the first example: family hospitality, even in bad times.”
Pope Francis prayed for Christian married couples. He asked God to “pour out his Spirit on all Christian couples so that, following the example of Aquila and Priscilla, they will be able to open the doors of their hearts to Christ and to their brothers and transform their homes into domestic churches.”
Picture: Pope Francis delivers his blessing during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 13 November 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)