WASHINGTON (JTA) – A Jewish group urged the Italian Bishops' Conference to condemn anti-Semitic comments made by a retired Catholic bishop.
Giacomo Babini, bishop emeritus of Grosseto, allegedly told the Catholic Web site Pontifex that Jews are behind the latest round of criticism of the Church's handling of clerical sex abuse. Babini, 81, allegedly called the criticism a “Zionist attack," saying, "They do not want the church, they are its natural enemies. Deep down, historically speaking, the Jews are God killers."
Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee's international director for interreligious affairs, said in a statement, "The high level of mutual trust and solidarity that binds our two communities today demands that there be zero tolerance for such defamatory statements by religious representatives.”
Italian Jewish groups also issued sharp protests.
Babini on Sunday issued a statement through the Italian Bishops Conference denying he had ever made such remarks. "Statements about our Jewish brothers that I have never pronounced have been attributed to me," he wrote. "In no way have I expressed any similar evaluations and judgments, from which I flatly distance myself."
The editor of Pontifex, Bruno Volpe, stood by the story and threatened to publish a recording of the interview. "It's enough for the Jews in America to sneeze and voila -- there's a retraction," he said on the publication's Web site.
The Catholic Church is facing a wave of priest sexual abuse cases in the United States and Europe, including a case in California where the signature of Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, appears on a 1985 letter resisting pressure to defrock a pedophile priest.
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