04 December 2014, The Tablet

Francis gives first interview to Israeli media

In a wide-ranging interview with Israel’s ynetnews.com last weekend, his first with Israeli media, Pope Francis spoke of his distress over the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and his hatred of anti-Semitism, writes James Roberts.

“The persecution of Christians is more severe today than during the first centuries of the Church,” Pope Francis told Henrique Cymerman. “Unimaginable barbaric and criminal acts are taking place.”

“The cry of the Christians, of the Yazidis and of other minorities in Iraq requires a clear and bold response from the religious leaders, and the Muslims in particular,” the Pope said, “but the political leaders and the leaders of the world powers must also act decisively.”

Speaking of the massacre last month at the synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof district that left five people dead, before police killed the two terrorists responsible, Pope Francis said: “I harshly condemn any kind of violence in the name of God.”

The Pope said it was still very important for Christians to visit Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, “because everything started there, in the Holy Land ... It’s like a glimpse of what awaits us in the afterlife – Heaven on earth.”

On the violence that blights this “Heaven on earth” he said: “Yes, it’s a contradiction. But violence in the name of God is not a new phenomenon.”

On anti-Semitism in Europe Pope Francis said: “We must make it absolutely clear: anti-Semitism is a sin ... you can’t be a true Christian if you don’t recognise your Jewish roots.”

On the demands of protocol in his life since becoming Pope, Francis said he had reservations about it, but respected it. He added: “Do you know what the difference is between terrorism and protocol? You can negotiate with terrorism.”

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