Pope Benedict XIV: On Jews and Christians living together (1751)


In June 1751, Pope Benedict XIV issued this encyclical which discussed the issues be believed arose from Jews and Christians living in the same space:

With regard to the matter of the Jews, We must express our concern, which causes Us to cry aloud: “the best color has been changed.” Our credible experts in Polish affairs and the citizens of Poland itself who communicated with Us have informed Us that the number of Jews in that country has greatly increased. In fact, some cities and towns which had been predominantly Christian are now practically devoid of Christians.

 

The Jews have so replaced the Christians that some parishes are about to lose their ministers because their revenue has dwindled so drastically. Because the Jews control businesses, selling liquor and even wine, they are therefore allowed to supervise the collection of public revenues. They have also gained control of inns, bankrupt estates, villages and public land by means of which they have subjugated poor Christian farmers.

 

The Jews are cruel taskmasters, not only working the farmers harshly and forcing them to carry excessive loads, but also whipping them for punishment. So it has come about that those poor farmers are the subjects of the Jews, submissive to their will and power. Furthermore, although the power to punish lies with the Christian official, he must comply with the commands of the Jews and inflict the punishments they desire. If he doesn’t, he would lose his post. Therefore the tyrannical orders of the Jews have to be carried out.

 

In addition to the harm done to Christians in these regards, other unreasonable matters can result in even greater loss and danger. The most serious is that some households of the great have employed a Jew as “Superintendent-of-the-Household”; in this capacity, they not only administer domestic and economic matters, but they also ceaselessly exhibit and flaunt authority over the Christians they are living with. It is now even commonplace for Christians and Jews to intermingle anywhere.

 

But what is even less comprehensible is that Jews fearlessly keep Christians of both sexes in their houses as their domestics, bound to their service. Furthermore, by means of their particular practice of commerce, they amass a great store of money and then by an exorbitant rate of interest utterly destroy the wealth and inheritance of Christians. Even if they borrow money from Christians at heavy and undue interest with their synagogues as surety, it is obvious to anyone who thinks about it that they do so to employ the money borrowed from Christians in their commercial dealings; this enables them to make enough profit to pay the agreed interest and simultaneously increase their own store. At the same time, they gain as many defenders of their synagogues and themselves as they have creditors.

 

[Pope Innocent III said] “They on being admitted to our acquaintance in a spirit of mercy, repay us as the mouse in the wallet, the snake in the lap and fire in the bosom usually repay their host.” The same Pope stated that it was fitting for Jews to serve Christians rather than vice versa and added: “Let not the sons of the free woman be servants of the sons of the handmaid; but as servants rejected by their lord for whose death they evilly conspired, let them realize that the result of this deed is to make them servants of those whom Christ’s death made free”… Likewise he forbids the promotion of Jews to public office: “forbidding Jews to be promoted to public offices since in such circumstances they may be very dangerous to Christians.” Innocent IV also, in writing to St. Louis, King of France, who intended to drive the Jews beyond the boundaries of his kingdom, approves of this plan, since the Jews gave very little heed to the regulations made by the Apostolic See in their regard:

 

“Since We strive with all Our heart for the salvation of souls, We grant you full power by the authority of this letter to expel the Jews, particularly since We have learned that they do not obey the said statutes issued by this See against them”

 


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