ROME, APRIL 4, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The preacher of the Pontifical Household is expressing regret if Jewish sensibilities were offended by his Good Friday sermon given in the presence of Benedict XVI. He says his intention was a “friendly one.”
Father Raniero Cantalamessa, during the liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, read a passage from a letter he had received from a Jewish friend. The letter’s author stated that he saw in recent media attacks of the Pope and the Church something reminiscent of the “more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism.”
Afterward, some press reports of Father Cantalamessa’s remarks stirred up fierce criticism from the Jewish world.
In response to the criticism Father Cantalamessa said: “If, against any intention of mine, I offended the sensibility of Jews and the victims of pedophilia, I sincerely regret it and ask forgiveness, reaffirming my solidarity with both.”
“There is one thing that I must clarify,” Father Cantalamessa added. “Not only did the Pope not ask me to say what I did, but, like everyone else, heard my words for the first time during the liturgy in St. Peter’s. No one in the Vatican ever asked to read the text of my sermons ahead of time, something that I regard as a great act of confidence in me and in the media.”
The Capuchin Friar explained to the Italian newspaper “Corriere della Sera” his intention in citing his Jewish friend’s letter: “This year the Jewish Passover occurs during the same week as Christian Easter. This gave me the idea, even before I had received the letter from my Jewish friend, to offer them a greeting from Christians, precisely in the context of Good Friday, which, unfortunately, has always been an occasion of conflict and, for them, of understandable suffering … .”
“I inserted the letter from [my] Jewish friend only because it seemed to me a witness of solidarity with the Pope so harshly attacked in recent weeks,” he continued. “My intention therefore was a friendly one, not at all hostile.
“In his letter, my Jewish friend, an Italian who is deeply identified with his religion, even authorized me to give his name. I was the one who decided it was not prudent to involve him directly, and much more do I think so now.”
Later on Good Friday, the director of the Vatican press office, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, clarified that “it is not the line of the Holy See to compare the attacks on the Pope over the pedophilia scandal to anti-Semitism.”
“Father Cantalamessa’s intention,” the Jesuit added, “was merely to disclose the solidarity with the Pope that a Jew has expressed in light of the particular experience of suffering that his people have had. But it was a citation that could have given rise to misunderstandings.”