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Head of Catholic Sect Calls Jews 'Enemies of Church'

Vatican reaffirms its commitment to dialogue with Jews after head of a traditionalist breakaway group called them "enemies of the Church."
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 1/8/2013, 7:55 PM

Manger Square outside Church of Nativity
Manger Square outside Church of Nativity
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Vatican reaffirmed its commitment to dialogue with the Jewish people after the head of a traditionalist breakaway group called Jews "enemies of the Church" in a late December video, which is currently circulating on YouTube.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), said on Dec. 28 that "the enemies of the Church: the Jews, the Masons, the modernists" were opposing the group's reconciliation with the Church.

Chief spokesman for the Vatican, Rev. Federico Lombardi, on Monday called Fellay’s comment "meaningless" and "unacceptable.”

"[B]oth Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor John Paul II personally engaged in dialogue with Jews," he said, noting their visits to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Lombardi declined to comment on the potential impact of Fellay's words on the dialogue between the Vatican and the SSPX breakaway group.

In a statement, the American branch of the SSPX dismissed the “false accusations of anti-Semitism or hate speech” made against the group, maintaining that the SSPX leader used the word “enemies” as a “religious concept,” referring to “any group or religious sect which opposes the mission of the Catholic Church and her efforts to fulfill it: the salvation of souls.”

Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization that combats anti-Semitism, said, “Bishop Fellay’s description of Jews as ‘enemies’ amply proves once again the deep rooted anti-Semitism that lies at the heart of the SSPX’s theology.”

“Despite all of the group’s efforts to present a cleansed public face, their teaching of hate still seeps to the surface,” he added. “Instead of blaming their traditional bogeymen of Jews and Masons for their problems with the Church, and accusing these enemies of being responsible for subverting the Church through the Vatican II, which shifted the relationship between Catholics and Jews into a positive direction in 1965, they would be better served by acknowledging the teachings of Vatican II and cleansing their theology of the bigotry that it espouses."