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The most dominant religion of the Western world. Christianity originated in the Land of Israel with a Jew from the Galilee named Jesus, all of whose disciples were Jews, and was spread throughout the ancient world by another Jew named Saul, whose name was later changed to Paul. Today’s Catholic Church is more aware than ever of the common heritage of Jews and Christians, and recent Popes have referred to Jews as our “elder brothers.”

This, however, was not always the case with the relationship between the two religions. When Christianity first began to spread in the Roman Empire, the rabbis of the time regarded this new offshoot of Judaism as a heresy, and opposed it. As Jews lost their national independence and were scattered in the new Christian world, the Church doctrine developed strong anti-Jewish views, including the view that the Jews, rather than the Romans, were responsible for the death of Jesus, and therefore were cursed by God to roam the earth and find no rest or fulfilment. During the Middle Ages the Church was instrumental in introducing many restrictions against the Jews, and, in effect, forced them to become second-class residents of the host countries in Europe. Perhaps the most radical example of persecution against Jews by the Church was the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th and 16th centuries, which specialized in torture, often against innocents. It was not until the 19th century that Jews started to obtain citizenship rights, and even then the Church did not accept Jews as the equals of their Christian compatriots.

The church, however, never condemned the Jewish people to die, as did the Nazi regime in Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s. Some argue that centuries of antisemitic preaching by the Church culminated in the Holocaust, but this may be only partially true. Today, a new era in Christian-Jewish relations has begun, due to the birth of Israel and the Church’s awareness of the Holocaust. The Vatican has officially condemned antisemitism and recognized the State of Israel, and many Christian groups, both Catholic and Protestant, support the Jewish state.

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