South African Jesuit Institute Defends Pope Francis against Chief Rabbi’s Accusations

Logo of the Jesuit Institute South Africa (JISA). Credit: JISA

The Jesuit Institute South Africa (JISA) has come to the defence of Pope Francis after Chief Rabbi in South Africa, Warren Goldstein, accused the Holy Father of “surreptitiously colluding with the forces of evil” in his remarks that “chastised” Israel’s war on Hamas.

In a Video Recording published on YouTube on Wednesday, December 20, Rabbi Warren says, “By denying Israel the moral right to fight this war, by comparing its just war of self-defence to the barbarism of Hamas, you repeat the sins of Pius XII – surreptitiously colluding with the forces of evil who seek to annihilate the Jewish people.” 

The Chief Rabbi accused Pope Francis of betraying “his fiduciary duty as the head of the Catholic Church to protect Christians throughout the world from the same murderous hatred directed against the Jews, not realizing that we are in this war together.”

In a Thursday, December 21 statement, JISA officials say they have been “reflecting on” the Chief Rabbi’s message to Pope Francis, and that they understand the Rabbi’s “anguish at what has happened over the past two and a half months in Israel and Palestine.”

“As Catholics, we seek to engage with your message in a constructive way, in the spirit of the profound relationship between Jews and Catholics that has developed over the past decades since the Second Vatican Council,” JISA officials add.


In response to the Chief Rabbi’s “call on the Pope to stand fully behind the State of Israel”, officials of the Jesuit entity say that the Holy Father “has been following closely the unfolding events. He has been in regular contact with Israeli and Jewish leaders.”

Pope Francis, they continue, “has expressed his grief at the deaths of the innocent, especially those cruelly murdered on 7 October, and has received the families of the hostages, seeking to find a way to help and guarantee their release.”

“In fact, since he became Pope, his promotion of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians has been a cornerstone of his vision for a world based upon our shared values,” officials of the Johannesburg-based Institute under the auspices of the Society of Jesus emphasize.

They remind the Chief Rabbi that “in these past weeks, the Pope has also been following closely the events inside Gaza. He has been in almost daily contact with the Holy Family parish in Gaza City.”

“Just three days before you released your call, an elderly woman and her daughter were gunned down by an Israeli soldier in the courtyard of the church. The home of the Missionaries of Charity, housing 54 disabled people, was bombarded by a tank. The water tanks and electrical generator of the Catholic compound were destroyed by an Israeli missile,” JISA officials tell Rabbi Warren, referring to events that the Holy Fathers has sharply condemned

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They fault the Chief Rabbi’s “repeated comparison” of the Holy Father to Pope Pius XII, who the Rabbi alleges colluded “with the forces of evil” seeking to exterminate Jews.

The officials of the Jesuit institution of higher learning tell Rabbi Warren, “We would like to point out that your repeated comparison of Pope Francis to Pope Pius XII is unfortunate. It has now been shown that, notwithstanding harsh judgments on Pope Pius’s alleged silence, he acted to save Jews from the Nazi beast wherever he could.”

They defend Pope Pius XII, saying, “As the Holy See’s ambassador to Germany in the 1930s, he repeatedly expressed his disgust with the Nazis and their barbarism.”

“Whereas Pius might remain a controversial figure, Francis has always stood with Jews in their time of need, in Argentina and throughout the world,” JISA officials say.

They underscore the need for Rabbi Warren “to distinguish between anti-Semitism and criticism of the State of Israel, its government and its army.”


“We say with absolute conviction that the Catholic Church stands alongside the Jewish people in the fight against anti-Semitism, committed to rooting out this cancerous evil wherever it rears its ugly head. However, at the same time, the Church is completely committed to the struggle for justice and peace in Israel and Palestine,” officials of the Jesuit entity say.

They add, “The Palestinian people have suffered injustice for too long and the only way to guarantee peace is also to guarantee justice, equality and security for Palestinians.”

JISA officials underscore the need to foster “dialogue and friendship”, and advocate for “a language that can promote the very values that promote “tikkun olam”, the repairing of our broken world.”

“Dear esteemed Rabbi Goldstein, we hope that we can continue to work together for a better South Africa and a better world!” officials of the Jesuit Institute in Johannesburg say in conclusion.

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