15 september 1199 Papal Bull “Sicut Judaeis” re-issued by Innocent III #otdimjh


(Latin: “As the Jews”) was a papal bull setting out the official position of the papacy regarding the treatment of Jews.  Here are some excerpts:

“[The Jews] ought to suffer no prejudice. We, out of the meekness of Christian piety, and in keeping in the footprints or Our predecessors of happy memory, the Roman Pontiffs Calixtus, Eugene, Alexander, Clement, admit their petition, and We grant them the buckler of Our protection.
For We make the law that no Christian compel them, unwilling or refusing, by violence to come to baptism. But, if any one of them should spontaneously, and for the sake of the faith, fly to the Christians, once his choice has become evident, let him be made a Christian without any calumny. Indeed, he is not considered to possess the true faith of Christianity who is not recognized to have come to Christian baptism, not spontaneously, but unwillingly.
Too, no Christian ought to presume…to injure their persons, or with violence to take their property, or to change the good customs which they have had until now in whatever region they inhabit.
Besides, in the celebration of their own festivities, no one ought disturb them in any way, with clubs or stones, nor ought any one try to require from them or to extort from them services they do not owe, except for those they have been accustomed from times past to perform.
…We decree… that no one ought to dare mutilate or diminish a Jewish cemetery, nor, in order to get money, to exhume bodies once they have been buried.
If anyone, however, shall attempt, the tenor of this decree once known, to go against it…let him be punished by the vengeance of excommunication, unless he correct his presumption by making equivalent satisfaction.”


The first bull was issued in about 1120 by Calixtus II and was intended to protect Jews. It was prompted by the First Crusade, during which over five thousand Jews were slaughtered in Europe. The words sicut Judaeis (“and thus to the Jews”) were first used by Pope Gregory I (590-604) in a letter addressed to the Bishop of Naples. Even then the Pope emphasized that Jews were entitled to “enjoy their lawful liberty.”

The bull was reaffirmed by many popes including Alexander III, Celestine III (1191-1198), Innocent III (1199), Honorius III (1216), Gregory IX (1235), Innocent IV (1246), Alexander IV (1255), Urban IV (1262), Gregory X (1272 & 1274), Nicholas III, Martin IV (1281), Honorius IV (1285-1287), Nicholas IV (1288-92), Clement VI (1348), Urban V (1365), Boniface IX (1389), Martin V (1422), and Nicholas V (1447).

The bull forbade Christians, on pain of excommunication, from forcing Jews to convert, from harming them, from taking their property, from disturbing the celebration of their festivals, and from interfering with their cemeteries.

The bull of 1120 was not the first papal expression against the mistreatment of Jews. In 1065, for example, Pope Alexander II wrote to Béranger, Viscount of Narbonne, and to Guifred, bishop of the city, praising them for having prevented the massacre of the Jews in their district, and reminding them that God does not approve of the shedding of blood. In 1065 also, Alexander admonished Landulf VI of Benevento “that the conversion of Jews is not to be obtained by force.”


Prayer: Lord, have mercy on your church for the distorted views that led to so much stereotyping, stigmatizing, victimization and oppression. Have mercy, O Lord! In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.

  1. Calixtus II. issues bull beginning “Sicut Judæis non” and enumerating privileges of the Jews (Vogelstein and Rieger, “Gesch. der Juden in Rom,” i. 219 [hereafter cited as V. R.]).
  2. Eugenius III., ordering Jews to remit interest on debts of Crusaders while absent (Baronius, “Annales”).
  3. Clement III. confirms the bull “Sicut Judæis non” (Rios, “Hist.” ii. 469 [hereafter cited as Rios]).

1199 (Sept. 15). Innocent III. confirms “Sicut Judæis non.”



Sicut Judaeis non debet esse licentia, ultra quam permissum est lege in synagogis suis praesumere, ita in eis, quae concessa sunt, nullum debent praejudicium sustinere. Nos ergo, cum in sua magis velint duritia permanere, quam prophetarum verba arcana cognoscere atque Christianae fidei et salutis notitiam habere, quia tamen defensionem et auxilium nostrum postulant, ex Christianae pietatis mansuetudine praedecessorum nostrorum felicis memoriae Callisti et Eugenii Romanorum pontificum vestigiis inhaerentes, ipsorum petitiones admittimus eisque protectionis nostrae clypeum indulgemus. Statuimus enim, ut nullus Christianus invitos vel nolentes eos ad baptismum venire compellat, sed, si eorum quilibet ad Christianos fidei causa confugerit, postquam voluntas ejus fuerit patefacta, Christianus absque calumnia efficiatur. Veram quippe Christianitatis fidem habere non creditur, qui ad Christianorum baptismum non spontaneus, sed invitus cognoscitur pervenire. Nullus etiam Christianus eorum quemlibet sine judicio potestatis terrenae vulnerare vel occidere vel suas eis pecunias auferre praesumat aut bonas, quas hactenus in ea, quam prius habitabant regione habuerunt, consuetudines immutare. Praesertim in festivitatum suarum celebratione quisquam fustibus vel lapidibus eos nullatenus perturbet nec aliquis ab eis coacta servitia exigat, nisi ea, quae ipsi praefato tempore facere consueverunt. Ad haec, malorum hominum pravitati et nequitiae obviantes, decernimus, ut nemo coemeterium Judaeorum mutilare vel invidare audeat, sive obtentu pecuniae corpora humana effodere. Si quis autem, hujus decreti tenore agnito, quod absit, temere contraire praesumpserit, honoris et officii sui periculum patiatur aut excommunicationis sententia plectatur, nisi praesumptionem suam digna satisfactione correxerit.

  1. Grayzel, “Popes, Jews and Inquisition from ‘Sicut’ to ‘Turbato'”, in A.I. Katsh & L. Nemoy, eds., Essays on the Occasion of the Seventieth Anniversary of the Dropsie University (Philadelphia, 1979), 151-88. S. Grayzel, “Pope Alexander III and the Jews”, in Salo W. Baron Jubilee Volume, vol. 2 (Jerusalem, 1974), 555-72. S. Grayzel, “The Papal Buill Sicut Judeis”, in Meir Ben-Horin et al., eds., Studies and Essays in Honor of Abraham A. Neuman (Leiden, 1962), 243-80. S. Grayzel, The Church and the Jews in the XIIIth Century (1198 -1254), 3d ed. (Detroit & New York, 1989). S. Simonsohn, The Apostolic See and the Jews, vol. 7, History (Toronto, 1992). K. Stow, The “1007 Anonymous ” and Papal Sovereignty: Jewish Perceptions of the Papacy and Papal Policy in the High Middle Ages (Cincinnati, 1984). K. Stow, “Hatred of the Jews, or Love of the Church: Papal Policy toward the Jews in the Middle Ages”, in S. Almog, ed. Antisemitism through the Ages (Oxford, 1988), 71-89. E. Synan, The Popes and the Jews in the Middle Ages (New York: 1965).


In addition, the Jew figures in the Christian world on two levels – one physical and the other theological – and the two are not fully congruent. The theological (or hermeneutical)1 Jew is present in Christian imagination and thought; the Jew forms an integral part of the Christian worldview as an internal entity bearing unvarying characteristics, and this perception also dictates the attitude towards living Jews. Moreover, even when ‘real’ Jews are absent from Christian society, in spite of their absence they continue to function as an internal, imagined ‘other’. The concept of boundary and that of the imagined Jew are both keys for deciphering the code of the relations between Christians and Jews in the Middle Ages, particularly in the thirteenth century.


As a rule, Jews were the only minority whose existence was permitted in Christian society. Jews lived throughout the Christian West in a state of relative tolerance inspired both by a fundamental Christian theological precept (as formulated by St Augustine) and the understandable desire of the authorities to maintain law and order. This state of tolerance and stability was disrupted by sporadic outbreaks of intolerance, which in extreme cases took the form of violent attacks, in a sort of perpetual pendulum that increasingly swung towards intolerance. The need to mark boundaries became pressing

specifically in view of the physical, social and cultural proximity between the two groups. The more the concept of the solidarity of the Christian world took hold, the worse the treatment of the Jews grew. The pressing need to delineate clear boundaries, indicating who is in and who is out, and to prevent any possible contact between the groups is the primary feature of thirteenthcentury Christian legislation and measures regarding Jews. Whereas the marking of boundaries was an essential need for both parties – Christians and Jews alike – and was intended to preserve the individual identity of each, as of the twelfth century, and to a greater extent as of the thirteenth, it was often attended by restrictions imposed on Jews in various areas of life, as a prime expression of the transformation of Christianity into a ‘persecuting society’. 4 This process culminated in the absolute expulsion of Jews from the lands in which they dwelt. Hence, whereas in the early thirteenth century Jews lived throughout Europe, by the end of the Middle Ages (1500), Jews were to be found in Western Europe only in Italy and in a few regions of the German Reich. Medieval ecclesiastical legislation upheld the rights of Jews to protection and to an existence with a modicum of honour in the Christian world, and several popes issued protective bulls.5 The theological justification for having Jews remain in the Christian world and for granting them protection is to be found in the verse ‘Slay them not, lest at any time they forget your law; scatter them in your might’ (Septuagint version of Ps. 59.12). In other words, Jews are the guarantee that Christians will not forget their own faith, which is to be found in Jewish Scripture. Yet the Jews’ existence may be tolerated only so long as their servile and inferior status is maintained. This is the basis for their protection, but likewise serves as the grounds for imposing restrictions on them.

The most fundamental and well-known document in this matter is the Sicut Iudaeis bull (Constitutio pro Iudaeis). The bull was first promulgated in 1120 by Pope Calixtus II and later re-issued by several different popes.6 It reaffirms the theological principle of the doctrine of Jewish Witness as the basis for

extending protection to the Jews and for the prohibition against abusing them or their rights, despite their obstinacy and refusal to recognise the truth. They must not be forcibly converted, but anyone who has converted to Christianity may not renege and resume being a Jew. Naturally, all of the above is applicable only providing that they do not plot against Christians and Christianity.

About richardsh

Messianic Jewish teacher in UK
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