Cardinals in Germany and Italy are standing up to anti-Semitism and racism, saying: “Not with me! Never again!”.

Cardinal Woelki: “There are still people who have learnt nothing – absolutely nothing – from history”

“It simply cannot be true that once again Jews dare not wear their kippas in public. I would like to encourage everyone to stand up in public every time  (they witness anti-Semitism) and clearly and distinctly say, Not with me! Never again!”, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne told, as reported by The Tablet.

Woelki was speaking after a visit to the Cologne Synagogue, which was burnt to the ground by the Nazis on the night of 9 November 1938, along with most of the Jewish temples in Germany.

“When I was young, after what happened in that terrible Reichskristallnacht in November 1938 and after the Holocaust, I would never have dreamt that one day Jewish synagogues and prayer houses in Germany would once again require police protection!, said Woelki, born in 1956.

“Unfortunately, however, as the attack on the synagogue in Halle recently again showed, there are still people who have learnt nothing – absolutely nothing – from history”, the cardinal deplored.

Woelki revealed he was deeply shocked by the “everyday” racism and hatred of other religions in Germany today, which he said often begins online and escalates into actual physical violence.

In that kind of climate, it is imperative people of good faith stand together, and even more so that Christians and Jews – linked by their shared history and belief in the one God – maintain close ties, Woelki told head of the Jewish community in Cologne, Rabbi Yechiel Brukner.

“Solidarity in society stands and falls with whether we succeed in bringing people who are different together and that is where religious communities are particularly in demand”, Woelki explained.

Cardinal Zuppi: “Hatred is never acceptable”

The other cardinal to speak out against anti-Semitism and religious hatred this week was Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna in Italy, who warned that “recent episodes of anti-Semitism and racism can be dismissed as ‘pranks’ or ‘accidents’, but we must always be very careful, because hatred always begins to be expressed in ways that may even seem harmless”.

Zuppi was referring to the racist attack in Bologna on a descendant of victims of the Holocaust, teacher Emmanuel Lederman, who suffered the indignity of having a Star of David graffitied on his door.

“Hatred is never harmless and it is never acceptable”, Cardinal Zuppi thundered in a message to organisers of an interfaith torchlight procession scheduled in Bologna for next Wednesday in solidarity with the victim of the anti-Semitic graffiti.

The torchlight procession “demands the attention of all and helps to seek out what defeats hatred, that is, knowledge, respect for the person and for all diversity, in the only common home of our humanism”, Cardinal Zuppi said in his message.

“We must till the soil of hatred, sowing peace, reintegrating those who are marginalized, supporting those who are discarded: in short, cultivating the soil of fraternity”, the cardinal concluded.

For his part, victim Lederman said: “To those who used that marker [the Star of David] as a weapon, my answer is disarming: a peaceful walk with many human brothers, mine and their too”.

Lederman added: “Maybe they thought that drawing a Star of David offended me, but I thank them, because I am proud of that symbol”.

Next on Novena:

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.