Shadow of anti-Semitism hangs over Vatican

A shadow of anti-Semitism hangs over the Vatican, threatening to undermine the efforts of Pope John Paul. His health failing, and in the twilight of his papacy, John Paul II is struggling to overcome 2000 years of misunderstandings between Christians and Jews.

Last Sunday, the Pope came to St. Peter's Basilica to ask God's forgiveness for 2000 years of the Catholic Church's sins against minorities.

Although he didn't mention the Jews by name, he made it clear that one of those greatest sins was anti-Semitism. The Pope stopped short of an apology that many Jewish leaders had requested.

Indifference to Jewish suffering

They wanted an apology for the wartime behavior of his predecessor, Pope Pius XII. Pius has widely been accused of silence in the face of the Holocaust and indifference to Jewish suffering.

But the Catholic church is proceeding to make him a saint.

Priest: 'Jews have killed Christ'

The priest designated by the Vatican to oversee the canonization of Pope Pius XII is a German Jesuit, Father Peter Gumpel. In an interview with CBC TV this week, Father Gumpel made comments that are sure to exacerbate the allegations of Catholic anti-Semitism.

"It is a fact that the Jews have killed Christ. This is an undeniable historical fact," Gumpel told CBC.

"I have discussed this with a Jewish colleague, a university professor and he said, 'Well, my dear professor,' he said, 'what do you want? Our forefathers found out that Christ was a false prophet, so we killed Him. And then of course, why should we have changed our attitude with regard to those who followed this false prophet'," Gumpel said.

Those sort of comments were officially disavowed as anti-Semitic by the church more than 30 years ago.

"I am amazed. I'm shocked, and outraged. After all, this country man, this priest who speaks on behalf of the Vatican is coming up with accusations which are old, and he forgets that we all live now in the 21st century," said world reknowned Holocaust expert and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel.

This latest incident is just one sign that it will take more than a wave of John Paul's papal staff to make anti-Semitism disappear from the Catholic Church.