By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis called on Monday for the eradication of anti-Semitism following an increase in attacks and hate crimes against Jews in several countries and said it was vital to preserve the memory of the Holocaust.
In the worst attack ever against U.S. Jews, a gunman yelling “All Jews must die” stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue on Oct. 27, killing 11 worshippers and wounding six other people including four police officers, before he was arrested.
“We are called to commit ourselves to ensure anti-Semitism is banned from the human community,” Francis said during a meeting with rabbis from the World Congress of Mountain Jews.
Mountain Jews are the descendants of Jews who left ancient Persia and settled in the Caucasus.
Francis said the Holocaust, in which the Nazis murdered six million Jews around Europe during World War Two, must continue to be commemorated to keep its memory alive.
“Without a living memory, there will be no future, for if the darkest pages of history do not teach us to avoid the same errors, human dignity will remain a dead letter,” he said.
He noted the recent 75th anniversary of the deportation of Rome’s Jews by Nazi occupiers and that Nov. 9 will be the 80th anniversary of “Kristallnacht,” the night when mobs ransacked thousands of synagogues and Jewish businesses in Germany and Austria.
“Sadly, anti-Semitic attitudes are also present in our own times. As I have often repeated, a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite, we share the same roots,” Francis said, stressing the importance of inter-faith dialogue.
In the run-up to Tuesday’s contentious U.S. elections, in which immigration has become a central issue, racist fliers have been reported on university campuses in at least five states, while synagogues in New York and California have been sprayed with anti-Semitic graffiti.
Last week British police launched an investigation into alleged anti-Semitic hate crimes within the opposition Labour Party, after a report that Labour itself had found evidence of party members threatening politicians.
(Additional reporting by Nick Carey and Bernie Woodall in Washington and Alistair Smout in London; Editing by Gareth Jones)