As Catholic-Jewish Relations Warm in Rome, They Cool in Chicago After Farrakhan’s Speech

Minister Louis Farrakhan, of the Nation of Islam, speaks at St. Sabina Church on May 9, 2019, in Chicago. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

During a standing-room-only speech at a Roman Catholic church in Chicago this week, Minister Louis Farrakhan attempted to defend himself against charges he promotes violence and hate.

But then, in a speech livestreamed on the church website and on Facebook, he turned to a familiar refrain: anti-Semitism.

“I just know the truth,” Farrakhan said at St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church. “And I’m here to separate the good Jews from the satanic Jews.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, called Farrakhan’s remarks “vintage Farrakhan” and wondered why Chicago Catholics would invite him to speak.

“These are the hateful notions that have poisoned the Nation of Islam’s worldview for decades, and it is deeply disappointing that he was given a platform in a church to spew his hateful vitriol,” Greenblatt said.

The Rev. Michael Pfleger, an activist and showman known for opposing gun violence and racial injustice, declared he invited Farrakhan because “I have been and always will be a defender of free speech.”

Earlier in the day in Rome, Pope Francis addressed a conference of scholars assembled at the Pontifical Biblical Institute and spoke of an “ever more profound and fraternal dialogue” between Catholics and Jews.

The Rev. Michael Pfleger, left, sits next to Minister Louis Farrakhan, of the Nation of Islam, before they both speak at St. Sabina Church on May 9, 2019, in Chicago. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Eric Meyers, professor emeritus of Judaic studies at Duke University who spoke at the conference, called it “a historic milestone in Catholic-Jewish relations.”

He believes the conference might one day eclipse “Nostra Aetate,” the landmark 1965 Vatican declaration that established a new rapport between Jews and Catholics.

The juxtaposition is a stark reminder that while Catholic, Protestant and Jewish scholarly and institutional structures have grown increasingly collaborative and warm, anti-Semitism remains a strong undertow.

Pfleger, the 69-year-old priest of a predominantly African American church, told Religion News Service he invited Farrakhan after Facebook banned him, along with inflammatory right-wing figures Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos, from its site.

The priest claimed that people hate Farrakhan because all they’ve heard from him are various sound bites. Pfleger said he had received more than 100 hateful emails on Friday; most were about Farrakhan’s comments about “satanic Jews,” he said. Pfleger said he did not interpret Farrakhan’s comments as being anti-Semitic.

Click here to read more.
Source: Religion News Service