Holy Week and hatred of the Jews redux

(CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Even after years of fruitful work on Christian-Jewish relationships, good biblical scholarship and the landmark Second Vatican Council document “Nostra Aetate”, the nagging old canard that the Jews killed Jesus won’t quite go away. And there is no other time of year when this rears its head than Holy Week, when the the passion and death of Jesus is proclaimed in liturgy after liturgy, and those problematic Scripture verses are spoken for all to hear. They have been the source of millennia of persecution and pain. How are we to think of them, and why can’t they just go away?

This week, New Testament scholar Amy-Jill Levine, herself a Jew, pens as essay for the Australia Broadcasting Networks’ Religion and Ethics program, “Holy Week and the Hatred of the Jews.” Levine offers a reason why this hatred remains and looks at six approaches that the church and academy have tried to resolve the issue. None, she notes, are entirely satisfactory.

Her essay is well worth the time to read and puts a new spin on the Gospel you hear at Good Friday liturgy.

Levine is the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Graduate Department of Religion, and Program in Jewish Studies. Her most recent book is “The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus.” CNS recently reviewed another work, “The Jewish Annotated New Testament, New Revised Standard Version Bible Translation,” that Levine co-edited along with scholar Marc Zvi Brettler. You can read the review at Catholic San Francisco.

Pope’s chocolate egg heads to prison

By Bridget Kelly

Catholic News Service

Pope Benedict XVI admires his 551-pound chocolate Easter egg before donating it to a youth detention center in Rome. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters).

VATICAN CITY — During the pope’s Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square, a chocolate company in Northern Italy gave him a 551-pound chocolate egg. The massive, beautiful egg is hand-decorated and reaches more than seven feet high. The detailed egg not only includes various designs and small pink flowers, but also features the papal coat of arms.

The pope decided to donate the egg to the children living at a Rome detention center, Casal del Marmo Prison for Minors. The pope visited the prison back in 2007, meeting the detainees and giving them his blessing. The youths, including many immigrants and non-Catholics, said they were moved by the fact that a pope would take time to visit them. Before leaving, the pope also told the young people he wished he could stay longer, and promised to keep them in his prayers.

In 1996 the same chocolate company, Tosca, gave Pope John Paul II a 551-pound hand-decorated chocolate egg as well. This year’s egg was designed to initiate cheer, sharing, and to celebrate the Easter season, the company said.

During the Easter season in Italy, many people give chocolate eggs because the egg represents birth, renewal and is a sign of life. Many pastry shops produce grand, hand-decorated chocolate eggs but none are comparable to the company’s nearly three-ton eggs that are 16 1/2 feet tall!

In case you missed it, here is a quick CNS video I did on the chocolate egg tradition in Italy: