24 January 2024

Holocaust Remembrance Day reminds world that war can never be justified – Pope

24 January 2024

The Pope has recalled the extermination of millions of Jews as he called for the upcoming Holocaust Day of Remembrance to reaffirm that war can never be justified and only benefits weapon-makers.

At the end of his weekly general audience, Francis referred to Saturday’s commemoration, which has become fraught this year given Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and a rise in antisemitism in Europe and around the world.

Francis said: “The remembrance and condemnation of that horrific extermination of millions of Jews and of other faiths, which occurred in the first half of the last century, help us all not to forget that the logic of hatred and violence can never be justified, because they deny our very humanity.”

Italy’s Jewish community has denounced a rise in antisemitic sentiment, including what leaders call the improper use of terms like “genocide”, following the October 7 Hamas attacks in southern Israel and Israel’s military response in Gaza.

On Tuesday, the head of the Jewish community Naomi Di Segni announced that marathons around Italy that have traditionally marked past Holocaust Remembrance Days had been cancelled this year because of security concerns.

She also complained about unnamed Catholic leaders who had “minimised the recognition of what happened on October 7 as a terrorist act compared to the right of Israel to defend itself”.

She did not name names, but some Jewish leaders have complained about Francis’ initial comments, in which he did not identify Hamas by name and complained generally that “we’ve gone beyond war … this is terrorism”.

Francis has subsequently always referred to suffering in both Israel and Gaza, and specifically condemned the October 7 attack.

The Pope said this year’s commemoration falls amid not only the war in Gaza but also in “tormented Ukraine”, and called for prayers for the victims and for political leaders to “cherish human life by putting an end to wars”.

“Let us not forget: War is always a defeat, always,” he said.

“The only ‘winner’ is the arms manufacturers.”

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