3 Apr 2010

Jewish groups outraged at Catholic comparison

9:58 pm on 3 April 2010

Jewish groups have taken strong offence at comments made by Pope Benedict's personal preacher, who says accusations over paedophile Catholic priests remind him of the collective violence suffered by the Jews.

Quoting a letter from a Jewish friend, Father Raniero Cantalamessa made the observation during his Good Friday sermon at St Peter's Basilica in Rome, which was attended by the Pope.

Germany's Central Council of Jews described the remarks as unprecedented insolence, and David Goldberg, of London's Liberal Jewish Synagogue, says the comparison is an inept analogy.

The vice-president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, Elan Steinberg, told Reuters the comparison was offensive and unsustainable; and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre calls it shameful, inaccurate and a complete distortion of history.

Reminded of 'aspects of anti-Semitism'

Pope Benedict has been accused of failing to take action over abuse of children by priests in Germany and the United States before he became Pope - claims the Vatican denies.

In his sermon, Father Cantalamessa quoted a Jewish friend as saying the accusations reminded him of the "more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism".

The preacher said Jews throughout history had been the victims of "collective violence" and drew a comparison with recent attacks on the Catholic Church.

A Vatican spokesperson says the remarks did not represent the Church's official position, and drawing such parallels could lead to misunderstandings.