The Pope’s preacher today likened recent attacks on the Pope over Catholic child sex abuse and rape scandals to, the “most shameful acts of anti-Semitism”. Father Raniero Cantalamessa, who is preacher to the Pope's household, came as one Catholic Church went on the offensive to deflect mounting criticism of cover up. The Pope is preparing to make a major address to the world for Easter Sunday as the Vatican is fighting back.
Father Cantalamessa, said that this year the Jewish festival of Passover and Easter fell during the same week and that Jews throughout history had been victims of “collective violence” and compared current attacks on the Church over the scandal with Anti-Semitism.. Speaking at a ceremony in St Peter’s Basilica on Christ’s Passion, he read for the congregation that included the Pope, part of a letter he said had received from an "unidentified Jewish friend", who said he was following “with indignation the violent and concentric attacks against the church, the Pope and all the faithful of the whole world”.
“The use of stereotypes, the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism,” Father Cantalamessa said his friend wrote to him.
Vatican officials are also desperately trying to shift the blame for the child abuse scandal engulfing the Catholic church away from the present Pope, onto the previous Pope John Paul II and the media in general.
Father Cantalamessa said Jews throughout history had been the victims of "collective violence" and drew a comparison with recent attacks on the Roman Church. Stephan Kramer, general-secretary of Germany's Central Council of Jews, described the remarks as offensive and repulsive. "So far I haven't seen St Peter's burning, nor were there outbursts of violence against Catholic priests, I'm without words. The Vatican is now trying to turn the perpetrators into victims.
Peter Isely, spokesperson for the US victim support group Snap, said the sermon had been "reckless and irresponsible, They're sitting in the papal palace, they're experiencing a little discomfort, and they're going to compare themselves to being rounded up or lined up and sent in cattle cars to Auschwitz?
"You cannot be serious." he siad.
Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, of the American Jewish Committee, called Father Cantalamessa's comments "an unfortunate use of language. The collective violence against the Jews resulted in the death of six million, while the collective violence spoken of here has not led to murder and destruction, but perhaps character assault," he said.
The Catholic Church has been inundated with fresh allegations of child sex abuse and rape by priests, most recently in Germany.The Pope is accused of failing to take action against an abuser during his watch, as archbishop of Munich, a claim the Vatican strongly denies. Critics say that when he was head of a Vatican office dealing with sex abuse, he refused to act against a US priest, who is believed to have abused more than 200 deaf boys. Critics are further demanding the Pope's immediate resignation.