The U.S. bishops are responding with solidarity and concern for the Jewish community, following a surge in anti-Semitic actions in recent weeks.
“On behalf of the Bishops and people of the Catholic Church, as the
Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Inter-religious
Affairs, I want to express our deep sympathy, solidarity, and support to
our Jewish brothers and sisters,” said Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanksi of
Springfield in a press release.
“I wish to offer our deepest concern, as well as our unequivocal rejection of these hateful actions,” Bishop Rozanski continued.
On Feb. 20, more than 150 headstones were damaged in University City,
Missouri at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery. Just a week later, over 100
headstones were found similarly knocked over at the Mount Carmel Jewish
Cemetery in Philadelphia.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia was "deeply
saddened" by the vandalism at Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery, and called
for "prayerful solidarity with the families of those whose final resting
places have been disturbed."
"As a community, we must speak out
to condemn inflammatory messages and actions that serve only to divide,
stigmatize, and incite prejudice," the archbishop continued. "We must
continually and loudly reject attempts to alienate and persecute the
members of any religious tradition. Rather, as members of diverse faith
and ethnic communities throughout the region, we must stand up for one
another and improve the quality of life for everyone by building bridges
of trust and understanding."
No suspects have been named in either case, but the damage has reached hundreds of thousands of dollars.
More than 50 bomb threats targeting the Jewish community have also
been reported across the country since the beginning of the year,
including scares at Jewish community centers in Philadelphia, Baltimore,
According to the Anti-Defamation League, violent anti-Semitic actions
soared in 2015, and continued into 2016 with increased online
Leaders and officials have denounced the surge in anti-Semitic
actions, including words from President Donald Trump last week, who said
the recent attacks on the Jewish community were “horrible and are a
painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to
root out hate and prejudice and evil.”
Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia also spoke out, saying that “hate is
not permissible in Philadelphia,” and that the perpetrators “will be
prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” according to the New York
Echoing these sentiments, Bishop Rozanski promised that “the Catholic
Church stands in love with the Jewish community in the current face of
Quoting Pope Francis, he pointed to the dangers of the anti-Semitic
attacks, linking them to acts of dehumanization, which is most notably
seen in hatred towards neighbors.
However, the Springfield bishop also voiced hope that these attacks
could be an opportunity for neighborly love to shine brightly.
“But here we also find an opportunity: that the light of the love of
neighbor may illuminate the Earth with its stunning brightness like a
lightning bolt in the dark; that it may wake us up and let true humanity
burst through with authentic resistance, resilience and persistence.”
“I encourage everyone to remember their neighbor, to find the
opportunities to be lights of resistance, resilience, and persistence
during these contentious times, especially with all our brothers and
sisters of faith.”