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About a Painting of Simon of Trent

[Unofficial translation from Chiesa]


I have seen Giovanni Gasparro's painting on the story of Simon of Trent. It would be superfluous to say that the painting is a sad demonstration of how the human mind seeks old stereotypes, nourishing the antisemitic attitudes that are growing in these difficult times, in which outsiders must be styled as enemies and ‘plague spreaders.’ Who else could we accuse of causing situations we are unable to explain or control? The recent exhibition at the Museum of the Diocese of Trent once again explained that the accusation blaming the small Jewish community of Trent in 1475 for the ritual murder of the 28-month-old Simon is completely false. Yet the consequences of this horrible forerunner of fake news were dramatic and real. The first was the massacre of that tiny, helpless nucleus of innocent people in the community. The second was the insertion, in 1584 by Sixtus V of Simone of Trent into the Roman Martyrology, thus recognizing his veneration, which spread in space and time. The Catholic Church finally, centuries later, officially abrogated the veneration of Simon on October 28, 1965, the day of the promulgation by the Second Vatican Council of the declaration Nostra Aetate on the relationship with Judaism and non-Christian religions.

There would be no need to say anything more if such paintings were not presented as an expression of the Christian faith, despite the fact that there is nothing Christian about them; we Catholics must comply with the Magisterium of the Church and definitively suppress such antisemitic regurgitations.

Sometimes there are faithful who prefer to fabricate truths detached from the Tradition, effectively slipping into heresy, while also erroneously seeing the Vatican II documents as optional, which one is free to learn and to observe or not. Sadly [for them], these statements are binding, signed by the Bishops of the Catholic Church and promulgated as such by the Holy Father. Despite the numerous declarations published by the Church in recent years, despite the gestures and words spoken by all the Pontiffs of the last fifty years, we must unfortunately conclude that part of the teaching of the Church on the unique and singular relationship of Christians with Judaism has not yet entered into the hearts and minds of some, who, although they are actually minorities, regrettably still manage to attract attention. Much work still needs to be done with regard to the post-conciliar teaching of our Church. As President of the Commission for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue of the Conference of Italian Bishops, I am working to ensure the dissemination of the Council’s teachings on this matter.

It is urgent that our faithful recognize the precious presence of the Jewish community and Judaism in our cities and in the world.

To achieve this, the Commission seeks to promote the knowledge of Judaism by every means in the catechesis and teaching of the Catholic religion. Only in this way, through the defeat of ignorance and prejudice can we prevent the manifestations of antisemitism that open doors to exclusion and racism. We are aware that racism is growing out of fear of a globalized world; at this difficult time we are severely assailed by a pandemic that triggers instinctive reactions of defense and violence. We have no need to add anything more to the suffering we are already enduring at this time!


Bishop Ambrogio Spreafico is president of the Bishops' Commission for Ecumenism and Dialogue of the Italian Conference of Catholic Bishops.