"Christian-Jewish relations will never become normalized until Christians as well as Jews have examined the prejudices and horrors of their common history. The two-thousand-year-old past has to be analyzed to discover what lies buried in those centuries through which they lived, though separated by more or less wilful misunderstandings and persecutions inflicted on the minority. It is the duty of the historian to lift the veil which blinded the eyes of many otherwise humane and committed Christians who showed themselves singularly loveless and insensitive where Jews were concerned. The semiofficial Vatican periodical, the Civilta Cattolica, and its contributors are a case in point; they remained, up to World War II and after, unconscious of the fact that they encouraged the "teaching of contempt" among countless readers who regarded this periodical as the official source and fountainhead of papal thinking. "Though many articles derogatory to Judaism had appeared in the Civilta between 1850, when it first appeared, and 1881, it was in this latter year that ritual murder was first casually mentioned as a well-known Jewish practice. The authority quoted was Rabbi David Drach, the early nineteenth century French convert, who was archivist in Rome from 1832 to 1842. He was the author of Lettres d'un rabbin converti and a number of other books and pamphlets aiming at the conversion of Jews and describing their religious beliefs. In April 1881, the Civilta quotes from his De l'Harmonie entre l'Eglise et la Synagogue (1844), the assertion that the Jews of Damascus had been responsible in 1840 for the ritual murder of the Capuchin Fr. Thomas and that their guilt had been established beyond doubt. The powerful influence of international Jewry had, however, obtained their release. The evidence was, in the Civilta's view, all the more convincing, since Drach must have found it particularly distasteful to incriminate members of his own race. But, according to the Civilta, the ritual murder was a fact: almost every year Jews murdered Christian children for their Passover in order to fulfil a talmudic law. The custom, the paper noted, was especially observed in Poland. "The absence of any Jewish law concerning the use of Christian blood in their better-known religious writings was, for the Civilta, easily explicable: the law was secret and had nothing to do with the original religion of Israel but was rooted in the talmudic tradition. It was only observed according to the Talmud where Jews lived in Eastern Europe and in oriental countries. "Readers were told that the Damascus murder of two adult Christians was not intended for Passover but for Purim; the rule for this feast was that every Jew had to get drunk and to kill one Christian in place of Haman; this was one of the main reasons why popes and bishops forbade all familiar intercourse between Jews and Christians. "In May of 1882, the story of the Damascus case was finally told in a special Civilta report: Fr. Thomas had been invited into a Jewish home, attacked, bound, and a certain Jew, Harari, had cut his throat, his blood being collected in a bottle. As it was impossible to find any evidence of his murder, the most prominent Jews of Damascus were imprisoned and tortured. The accusation was in fact strongly supported by the French consul, Ratti-Menton, France having taken upon herself the protection of Middle Eastern Christians. Politics played some part in the affair, for France supported Mehemet Ali's annexation of Syria from Turkey and influenced the Egyptian governor to extort a confession from the Jews. The anti-Jewish reaction of the French press helped to justify the trial. Other countries, especially Austria and England, reacted differently. When the torture and death of several of the accused became known, the Jewish communities of Europe united to support their unfortunate brethren in Damascus. Several Chief Rabbis, whose reputation was above suspicion, took a solemn oath that there was not a word of truth in the blood libel. The Civilta's comment was that Jews were allowed to commit perjury in a Christian court. Supported by Queen Victoria herself, the venerable Sir Moses Montefiore and the French lawyer (and later deputy) Isaac Adolphe Cremieux were delegated to undertake the journey to Cairo and Damascus. The embarrassed Mehemet Ali had to give in to the united pressure of all foreign consuls, the French always excepted. The Jews, as far as they had survived the torture of the governor Sherif Pasha, were released and completely exonerated. Contrary to a statement in the Civilta, the words "killed by Jews" were deleted from the tombstone of Fr. Thomas. "Neither the body of the Capuchin monk nor that of his servant were ever found. They were probably killed by a Moslem who, after a violent quarrel, had been heard to threaten the monk whose life, moreover, had been far from saintly. He had engaged in dealings as a kind of quack physician with all sorts of people and had made a number of enemies. But this was not, of course, the view of the Civilta; according to them, Montefiore had succeeded in bribing Mehemet Ali with Rothschild's gold, so that the truth of the affair should not become known; the ritual murder of Fr. Thomas must have been a fact, because it followed the same pattern of other such killings of Christians by Jews throughout the centuries. What the Civilta's writers omitted to mention were the unspeakable tortures practiced on Jewish men, women, and even children, which were bound to force out a "confession" by at least one person. Under duress, one or two abjured their faith and accepted Christianity (or Islam), but when faced with death were "sticknecked" enough to return to the faith of their ancestors." Klein, Charlotte. Damascus to Kiev: Civilta Cattolica on Ritual Murder Pgs. 182,183, 186, 187, 188)
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