Canon law was hostile to Jews in wording, but the popes also refused to accept popular violence against Jews. The following letter of Pope Gregory X (1271 -1276) incorporates material from earlier letters of Innocent III (1198-1216) and Innocent IV (1243-1254). Here Gregory X opposes the blood libel – the often repeated claim that Jews killed and ate Christian children.
Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, extends greetings and the apostolic benediction to the beloved sons in Christ, the faithful Christians, to those here now and to those in the future.
Even as it is not allowed to the Jews in their assemblies presumptuously to undertake for themselves more than that which is permitted them by law, even so they ought not to suffer any disadvantage in those [privileges] which have been granted them. [This sentence, first written by Gregory I in 598, embodies the attitude of the Church to the Jew.] Although they prefer to persist in their stubbornness rather than to recognize the words of their prophets and the mysteries of the Scriptures [which, according to the Church, foretold the coming of Jesus], and thus to arrive at a knowledge of Christian faith and salvation; nevertheless, inasmuch as they have made an appeal for our protection and help, we therefore admit their petition and offer them the shield of our protection through the clemency of Christian piety. In so doing we follow in the footsteps of our predecessors of blessed memory, the popes of Rome — Calixtus, Eugene, Alexander, Clement, Innocent, and Honorius.
We decree moreover that no Christian shall compel them or any one of their group to come to baptism unwillingly. But if any one of them shall take refuge of his own accord with Christians, because of conviction, then, after his intention will have been manifest, he shall be made a Christian without any intrigue. For, indeed, that person who is known to have come to Christian baptism not freely, but unwillingly, is not believed to posses the Christian faith.
Moreover no Christian shall presume to seize, imprison, wound, torture, mutilate, kill or inflict violence on them; furthermore no one shall presume, except by judicial action of the authorities of the country, to change the good customs in the land where they live for the purpose of taking their money or goods from them or from others.
In addition, no one shall disturb them in any way during the celebration of their festivals, whether by day or by night, with clubs or stones or anything else. Also no one shall exact any compulsory service of them unless it be that which they have been accustomed to render in previous times.
Inasmuch as the Jews are not able to bear witness against the Christians, we decree furthermore that the testimony of Christians against Jews shall not be valid unless there is among these Christians some Jew who is there for the purpose of offering testimony.
Since it happens occasionally that some Christians lose their children, the Jews are accused by their enemies of secretly carrying off and killing these same Christian children and of making sacrifices of the heart and blood of these very children. It happens, too, that the parents of these very children, or some other Christian enemies of these Jews, secretly hide these very children in order that they may be able to injure these Jews, and in order that they may be able to extort from them a certain amount of money by redeeming them from their straits. [Following the lead of Innocent IV, 1247, Gregory attacks the ritual murder charge at length.]
And most falsely do these Christians claim that the Jews have secretly and furtively carried away these children and killed them, and that the Jews offer sacrifices from the heart and the blood of these children, since their law in this matter precisely and expressly forbids Jews to sacrifice, eat, or drink the blood, or to eat the flesh of animals having claws. This has been demonstrated many times at our court by Jews converted to the Christian faith: nevertheless very many Jews are often seized and detained unjustly because of this.
We decree, therefore, that Christians need not be obeyed against Jews in a case or situation of this type, and we order that Jews seized under such a silly pretext be freed from imprisonment, and that they shall not be arrested henceforth on such a miserable pretext, unless — which we do not believe — they be caught in the commission of the crime. We decree that no Christian shall stir up anything new against them, but that they should be maintained in that status and position in which they were in the time of our predecessors, from antiquity till now.
We decree in order to stop the wickedness and avarice of bad men, that no one shall dare to devastate or to destroy a cemetery of the Jews or to dig up human bodies for the sake of getting money. Moreover, if any one, after having known the content of this decree, should — which we hope will not happen — attempt audaciously to act contrary to it, then let him suffer punishment in his rank and position, or let him be punished by the penalty of excommunication, unless he makes amends for his boldness by proper recompense. Moreover, we wish that only those Jews who have not attempted to contrive anything toward the destruction of the Christian faith be fortified by support of such protection.
Given at Orvieto by the hand of the Magister John Lectator, vice-chancellor of the Holy Roman Church, on the 7th of October, in the first indiction [cycle of fifteen years], in the year 1272 of the divine incarnation, in the first year of the pontificate of our master, the Pope Gregory X.
Prayer: Thank you Lord for this rare and much needed example of papal defense and protection of the Jews from the Blood Libel accusation and mob violence. Help us to stand against injustice, prejudice and discrimination wherever it occurs, and in whatever form it takes. Help Messianic Jews to champion the cause of those who are demonized and stereotyped, rather than add to the injustice. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.
Jacob R. Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World (Cincinnati: The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1938), pp. 151-154.
Pope Gregory X (Latin: Gregorius X; c. 1210 – 10 January 1276), born Teobaldo Visconti, was Pope from 1 September 1271 to his death in 1276 and was a member of the Secular Franciscan Order. He was elected at the conclusion of a papal election that ran from 1268 to 1271 — the longest papal election in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.
He convened the Second Council of Lyons and also made new regulations in regards to papal conclaves. Though briefly annulled by Pope Adrian V and Pope John XXI, these regulations remained in force until the 20th century when Pope Paul VI changed them.
Pope Clement XI beatified him in 1713 after the confirmation of his cultus.
|Pope Gregory X and the Crusades
Philip B. Baldwin
Pope Gregory X stood at the very centre of the crusading movement in the later thirteenth century. An able diplomat, he showed himself adept at navigating the political waters of Europe and the Mediterranean World. His crusade gained the participation of virtually all of the leaders of Western Europe, and even the Byzantine emperor and the Ilkhan of the Mongols: crucial if his crusade were to have a chance of defeating the very formidable and successful Mamluk Sultan Baybars. However, Gregory’s premature death put paid to his crusade plans.
Perhaps because of this, Gregory has hitherto been somewhat neglected by historians – a gap which this book aims to fill. It provides a full account of his contribution to the Crusade, demonstrating that he left a lasting mark on how crusading would operate in the years to come.