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The BBC's David Willey
"He was an opponent of anything modern"
 real 56k

Sunday, 3 September, 2000, 22:41 GMT 23:41 UK
Pope beatification angers Jews
Pope John Paul II in front of the crowd at St Peters
Pope John Paul II in front of the crowd of about 100,000
Israel expressed its "deep sorrow" on Sunday at the Vatican's controversial beatification of a 19th-century pope, branded as anti-Semitic by historians and Jewish leaders.


"I would expect the Vatican to show greater sensitivity

Israel's minister for the diaspora
Pope Pius IX, who reigned from 1846 to 1878, was one of two former pontiffs beatified by Pope John Paul on Sunday in a ceremony attended by thousands of pilgrims in St Peter's Square.

Both are now on the path to becoming saints of the Catholic church.

"I would expect the Vatican to show greater sensitivity towards believers from other faiths," said Michael Melchior, Israel's minister for the diaspora.

Forced conversion

Pope Pius IX confined Rome's Jews to a ghetto and forcibly baptised their children as Christians.

He allegedly referred to Jews as "dogs".

Pope Pius IX: arch conservative
Pope Pius IX: arch conservative
When he died a mob tried to throw his body into the River Tiber.

Mr Melchior said that the beatification of Pope Pius was equivalent to giving support to "the Roman Catholic Church's historical record of forced conversions."

Jewish groups also voiced their protests. The New York-based Anti-Defamation League called the beatification "troubling".

"I am very disappointed by this," said Rabbi David Rosen, head of the International Jewish-Christian Association.

Veneration for virtue

Pope John Paul acknowledged the controversy in his decision, saying Pope Pius IX was "much loved, but also hated and defamed."

"Beatifying a son of the church does not celebrate particular historic choices that he has made, but rather points him out for imitation and for veneration for his virtue," he said.

Pope John XXIII: venerated reformer
Pope John XXIII: venerated reformer
He stressed Pope Pius IX was faithful to "the duties of his ministry, and always gave God and spiritual values absolute priority."

Pope John Paul also beatified John XXIII, who died in 1963, and is seen as a great reformer.

Two very different popes

In his homily, Pope John Paul praised both his predecessors as loyal servants of God.

John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council which revolutionised the Catholic church.

A tapestry bearing the likeness of Pope Pius IX hangs from St Peters basilica
A tapestry depicting Pope Pius IX hangs from St Peter's basilica
He is also popular among Jews for helping some of them escape Nazi persecution.

The BBC's Rome correspondent, David Willey, says the decision to beatify at the same time two former pontiffs with such different records could send out a confused message.

Piux IX listed 80 propositions which he condemned as erroneous, including socialism, liberalism, communism, rationalism, progress and modern civilisation in general.

John Paul II has undertaken more than 1,000 beatifications and canonisations - more than any of his predecessors.

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See also:

24 Dec 99 | Europe
Pope launches Holy Year
01 Oct 99 | Europe
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10 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
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