A German bishop has blamed the Halle synagogue shooting on the “brutalisation of language” in politics and social media, and called for measures to stop hate speech.

Driving the news

On Wednesday evening, an armed man attempted to enter a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle, where dozens had gathered to celebrate Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day.

When he couldn’t get in, the 27-year-old gunman – who streamed the attack, complete with anti-Semitic slurs, on social media – shot dead two people nearby.

Two other people were wounded by the man, who has since been arrested.

Go deeper

SIR spoke about the Halle attack to Bishop of Erfurt Ulrich Neymeyr, the German Bishops’ pointman for relations with Judaism.

Neymeyr expressed his “pain, sadness, anger, horror and solidarity” at the attempted massacre.

The bishop added that “anti-Semites and racists are a minority in Germany and their opinions are not shared by the majority”.

“An event as terrible as that of Halle doesn’t separate Jews and non-Jews; it does nothing but draw them even closer”, Neymeyr explained.

Why it matters

“However, it can’t be denied that Jews today are more afraid than some years ago”, Neymeyr continued.

“Anti-Semitism, attempted murder, attacks on synagogues… as long as Jews have something to fear, there’s something that’s absolutely not working in Germany”, the bishop said.

Bishop Neymeyr called on Catholics to do “what every good person would do” in the wake of the Halle attack: “cry, show solidarity and cut off anyone who stutters anti-Semitic and racist words”.

“There’s no place in the Church for anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism”, the bishop insisted, adding: “This can never be said enough”.

What’s next

“As a society, we must continue to ask ourselves the question of who and what is promoting anti-Semitism and what possibilities there are to prevent it”, Neymeyr affirmed.

The attack “didn’t come out of the blue”, he lamented.

“All democratic forces are called to question themselves and the Churches will play their part, in their schools and communities, in pastoral and educational work and in interreligious dialogue”, the bishop promised.

Neymeyr concluded calling on authorities to ensure “that Jews can come together and worship without fear”.

For the record

For his part, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the President of the German Bishops’ Conference, said he was “appalled and shaken” by the “cowardly” attack in Halle.

“We stand in solidarity with our Jewish fellow citizens. Anti-Semitism or even blind violence must have no place in our society”, Marx declared.

General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Olav Fykse Tveit, lamented that “the assault seems to be a brazen display of racist anti-Semitism that, sadly, is on the rise in Europe and elsewhere”.

“Needless to say, this kind of racist violence and hate are repugnant to us, fortifying our resolve to work with Jews and Christians everywhere  to oppose hatred and instill respect for all people”, Tveit added.

In the Vatican, before concluding Wednesday’s work at the Synod on the Amazon, Pope Francis prayed for the victims and their families, the Vatican Press Office said.

Next on Novena:

Dutch Churches call on Government to curb “unacceptable” antisemitism