* Book is second in planned three-part series
* Israeli PM praises pope for comments on Jews
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY, March 10 Pope Benedict has
condemned violence committed in God's name and personally
exonerated Jews of responsibility for Jesus' death in his latest
book, released on Thursday.
The book, the second in a planned three-part series on the
life of Jesus, is a detailed, highly theological and academic
recounting of the last week in Jesus' life.
Publishers have printed 1.2 million copies of the book in
seven language. A blaze of international publicity included
teleconferences with the media in several countries.
The 350-page work, which reads more like a seminary text
than something for the masses, is rife with citations from
scripture and references to other theologians, historians and
Roman Catholic writers.
In one section, Benedict writes that there can be no
justification for violence carried out in God's name, an
assertion as applicable to Islamist militancy today as to
violence that the Catholic Church itself committed in the past
as it spread the faith.
"The cruel consequences of religiously motivated violence
are only too evident to us all," the pope writes. "Violence does
not build up the Kingdom of God, the kingdom of humanity."
The part of the book that may have the most far-reaching
effect on Catholic relations with other religions is one in
which the pontiff details the events of Christ's trial before
Roman governor Pontius Pilate, and his sentencing to death.
In that section, he repudiates the concept of collective
guilt of the Jews at the time and of their progeny for Jesus'
death, a charge that has haunted Christian-Jewish relations for
It was the first time a pope had made such a detailed
dissection and close comparison of various New Testament
accounts and concluded that there was no basis to the charge,
first officially repudiated in a Church document in 1965.
"Never before in the history of the church has there been a
reigning pope who has written a full-length book on the life of
Jesus," said Brant Pitre, professor of Sacred Scripture at Notre
Dame Seminary in New Orleans.
Benedict says that it was the "Temple aristocracy" -- and
not all Jews of the time -- who wanted Jesus condemned to death
because he had declared himself king of the Jews and they
believed he had violated Jewish religious law.
Jewish leaders around the world have already hailed that
section of the book.
"Your Holiness, I commend you for forcefully rejecting in
your recent book a false charge that has been the foundation for
the hatred of the Jewish people for many centuries," Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the pope in a letter.
"My fervent hope is that your clarity and courage will
strengthen the relations between Jews and Christians throughout
the world and help promote peace and reconciliation for
generations to come," he wrote.
Rabbi Jacob Neusner, a leading American Jewish scholar and
the editor of the Encyclopaedia of Judaism, said: "This
represents a scholarly judgment ... he is talking about truth
and not about convenience."
Benedict, elected in 2005, has had his share of problems in
In 2009, many Jews and others were outraged when Benedict
lifted the excommunication of the traditionalist bishop Richard
Williamson, who caused an international uproar by denying the
full extent of the Holocaust and claiming that no Jews had been
killed in gas chambers.
(Editing by Kevin Liffey)