Italian cardinal condemns anti-Semitism after disruption of online event

CNA 5e5731f2bd596 183414 Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian bishops' conference, at a press conference in Bari, Italy, on Jan. 22, 2020. | Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

The president of the Italian bishops' conference has condemned anti-Semitism after an online event in memory of a Jewish leader was disrupted by hateful images and slogans.

"In firmly condemning this new act of hatred, the Church in Italy reiterates the need to work together -- with all Christian confessions and believers of other religions -- to foster a culture of encounter and friendship," Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti said in a Feb. 10 letter to the community affected by the attack.

The incident took place during an online event in memory of Amos Luzzato, an Italian essayist and former president of the Jewish Community of Venice, who died in September at the age of 92.

During the Feb. 7 memorial event, the video stream was hacked, and anti-Semitic slogans, photos of Hitler, and pornographic and blasphemous images were displayed. Organizers were forced to end the video meeting early.

The state police's cybercrimes unit is investigating.

"The Italian Episcopal Conference expresses solidarity and closeness to the Italian Jewish communities," Bassetti said in his letter. 

The online event, held on Google Workspace, was organized by the Secretariat for Ecumenical Activities of Venezia (SAE), the Evangelical Lutheran Community, and Beit Venezia, a center for Jewish culture.

Gadi Luzzatto Voghera, a historian and son of Amos Luzzatto, was one of the event's speakers.

Antonella Bullo Morandini, who leads the SAE, told the Italian public broadcaster Rai that the attack "deals with a form of violence that is so hurtful to us, but that commits us more because we must overcome and go beyond these truly sad forms of violence."

"The passion and rigor with which Amos Luzzatto faced the Scriptures, the Tanakh, allowed him to recognize the founding identity of the Jewish tradition," the SAE said on its website, in a post about the event.

"The recovery of this tradition, which survived the dehumanizing horror of the Nazi regime, allowed him to open up to the Christian horizon to restore it to the truth of its Jewish roots," it continued.

"The form of dialogue that he reached was completed in the Jewish-Christian-Islamic trialogue experienced as a commitment to counteract any regurgitation of anti-Semitism, racism, and Islamophobia, which are appearing ever stronger and more insidious."

In his letter, Bassetti pointed to Pope Francis' encouragement to "commit ourselves to tilling the soil on which hatred grows, sowing peace" to help "make the world a better place while respecting human dignity, a dignity that belongs to everyone in equal measure regardless of 'origin, religion, and social status.'"

The cardinal said that "as pastors, we are convinced that, to a rampant intolerance that generates forms of racism and contempt, it is necessary to respond with an action of formation, mutual knowledge, and dialogue, aware that this is the only way to build a more just and supportive society."

"Our commitment becomes a challenge and an opportunity for this time," he said.

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