L’Osservatore Romano has published an account by Luis Suarez of the Spanish Catholic newspaper La Razon of the time the Spanish columnist met Benzion Netanyahu.
The late Professor Netanyahu is best known for his magnum opus, The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain, a copy of which his son, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, presented to Pope Francis during a private audience last week.
In the article, reprinted in tomorrow's L'Osservatore Romano, Suarez says that he had the opportunity to speak at length with Benzion Netanyahu when the historian was presented with an honorary degree at the University of Valladolid.
“He was one of the best informed people on the subject, since he had access to the documentation that came out of Jewish Spain in 1492,” says Suarez. “This allowed him to be aware of some very important aspects. For example, he was convinced that the majority of Jews who converted became faithful Christians, as evidenced by the important collaboration they had in the formation of Spanish culture, beginning with the Complutensian Polyglot Bible.”
The Bible included the first printed editions of the Greek New Testament, the complete Septuagint, and the Targum Onkelos.
Suarez says Netanyahu also discovered that Isabella I of Castile “would have liked to have postponed the expulsion [of the Jews], but was not allowed to.” Isabella and King Ferdinand issued an edict in 1492 expelling all Jews from the Kingdom of Spain with deadly consequences.
He adds that the book has allowed Spanish historians “to understand a fundamental point of view: on the one hand, we can say that the Inquisition was not a sort of terrifying tool, as is said today, but was in fact less harsh than [methods] used by other states.”
“On the other hand, we Catholics must recognize with him [Netanyahu] that the Inquisition was an error on the part of the Church which must be an instrument of reconciliation and not of persecution,” Suarez adds.
“I maintain that it was appropriate that the book was presented to the Pope at this time. Many people do not know that the decree to deport the Jews was officially abolished in Spain in 1973,” Suarez says. “It is the time for reconciliation which now we can all appreciate.”