In his latest volume of Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI says the condemnation of Christ had complex political and religious causes and cannot be blamed on the Jewish people as a whole, reports the Catholic News Service.
The pope also said it was a mistake to interpret the words reported in the Gospel, "His blood be on us and on our children," as a blood curse against the Jews. Those words, spoken by the mob that demanded Jesus' death, need to be read in the light of faith, the pope wrote. They do not cry out for vengeance, but for reconciliation, he said.
"It means that we all stand in need of the purifying power of love which is his blood. These words are not a curse, but rather redemption, salvation," he said. The pope's treatment of the events of the Passion form the core of his new book, Jesus of Nazareth. Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection.
It was to be officially presented at the Vatican on March 10, but excerpts from three chapters were released on March 2. The work is an extensive reflection on the Gospel texts and on the arguments of Scripture scholars, in effect offering Pope Benedict's version of "The Passion of the Christ."
In Chapter 7, the pope examines the trial of Jesus before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor in Judea. The pope said Pilate is presented realistically in the Gospels as a man who knew that Jesus posed no real threat to the Roman order, but who had to deal with political realities - including pressure from Jesus' accusers.
"Now we must ask: Who exactly were Jesus' accusers? Who insisted that he be condemned to death?" the pope wrote. He noted that the Gospel of St John says simply it was "the Jews."
"But John's use of this expression does not in any way indicate - as the modern reader might suppose - the people of Israel in general, even less is it 'racist' in character. After all, John himself was ethnically a Jew, as were Jesus and all his followers," he said.
What St John was referring to with the term "the Jews," the pope said, was the "temple aristocracy," the dominant priestly circle that had instigated Jesus' death.
FULL STORY In book, Pope says Jesus' death cannot be blamed on Jewish people (Catholic News Service)