In Poway, California in April 2019, a shooter attacked Chabad of Poway Synagogue on the last day of Passover. The attacker killed one woman and injured three people, including the rabbi. The attacker had published an anti-Semitic manifesto before the attack, and also claimed responsibility for an arson attack on a California mosque.
In December 2019 in Jersey City, New Jersey two gunmen shot and killed four people, including two Orthodox Jews, at a cemetery and kosher supermarket. Local authorities said preliminary evidence indicated the suspects held views that reflected hatred against Jews.
Bishop Rhoades' comments warned of errors and hateful rhetoric about Jews.
“Some writers today do not present Jews or Judaism in a respectful or theologically correct manner,” he said. “In this age of social media, people read or listen to all kinds of opinions expressed about Judaism and the Jewish people on internet blogs, websites, and the like. Some are filled with false and hateful rhetoric, opposed to the very spirit of Christianity. As Catholics, we must reject any that express, or can lead to, contempt for Jews.”
To this, Rhoades added “the Catholic Church offers no shelter to anti-Jewish bias, regardless of its content or expression. This applies to racist statements against Jews, to anti-Semitism, or to any religious opinion that denigrates Jews or Judaism.”
Rhoades acknowledged disagreement between Christians and Jews on matters of faith, “but such disagreements need not imply hostility,” he said.
“The only truly Christian attitude towards the Jewish people is an attitude of respect, esteem, and love,” Rhoades continued. “As members of God’s family, we are bound to one another in His plan of salvation.”
He described a November 2019 gathering at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Fort Wayne, where over 1,000 Jews and Christians gathered for the “Violins of Hope” event. The event's musical instruments included violins used by Jewish prisoners in Nazi concentration camps and both Jewish and Catholic choirs sang. The audience prayed the Psalms together.
This event, said Rhoades, “brought us tears of both sadness and joy — sadness at the horrors of the Holocaust, and joy at the love we share as brothers and sisters, drawn together by a common spiritual patrimony.”
The bishop also delivered a theological and historical reflection.
“We recognize that the anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism of past centuries contributed to the rise of the Nazi project to exterminate Jews,” he said. He cited the Second Vatican Council's document Nostra Aetate, which condemned “all hatreds, persecutions, displays of antisemitism leveled at any time or from any source against the Jews.” The document urged careful catechesis and preaching about Jews.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches “The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Testament,” the bishop said.
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“We must never forget that Judaism was the religion of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the apostles, and of the early disciples who spread the good news of Christ to the world,” said Rhoades. “The four gospels were written by Jews, about a Jew and originally for a Jewish readership. The Jewish people, then, are Jesus’ own family.”
“Though many Jews did not accept the Gospel or opposed its spreading, they were not thereby rejected by God,” said the bishop, who emphasized the Second Vatican Council's rejection of the claim that all Jews were “Christ-killers”
“Even though the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ (cf. John 19:6), neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his passion,” Nostra Aetate said.
Rhoades noted that the Catholic Catechism teaches that all human beings are responsible for the death of Jesus.
“The Jews are not our enemies. We are bound together with them in friendship as brothers and sisters in the family of God,” said Rhoades.
He invoked the example of Pope Francis' 2016 visit to the synagogue of Rome. The pope's remarks stressed as fundamental to inter-religious dialogue the Christian and Jew's encounter of each other “as brothers and sisters before our Creator,” their praise for God, and their mutual respect, appreciation, and attempts at cooperation.