John Mann
John Mann

Vatican’s view on anti- Semitism gives us hope

Article co-written by John Mann MP and Nusrat Ghani MP

Last week, under the auspices of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Against Antisemitism, we visited Rome’s Vatican City.

The Group’s approach has always been that non-Jews should lead the fight against anti-Jewish hatred and we have always considered it vitally important to work in close partnership with the Catholic community.

Our visit reinforced our mantra and we take on this fight hand in hand with Christian and other faith communities.

We shared recommendations for action based on our mutual experiences and we hope this exchange of best practice and solidarity will strengthen us in our fight against anti-Semitism.

Nusrat Ghani MP
Nusrat Ghani MP

To be effective, any public, religious or other institution must first address the situation in its own backyard.

A key message conveyed by all we met was that Pope Francis’ priority is to first deal with anti-Semitism within the Catholic Church.

In politics, we believe it fundamentally important for MPs to first address anti-Semitism within their own parties. This has always been our approach and our quiet letters and calls for action have yielded significant results.

It has always been the case that a responsible discourse and parameters for reasoned debate are set by public figures in key leadership roles. During the meetings with church and other representatives, we discussed the complexities and layers of anti-Semitism and the difficulty in applying a ‘one size fits all’ approach to it.

The importance of distinguishing between ‘modern anti-Semitism’, ‘historical Christian anti-Judaism’ and ‘anti-Zionism’ is becoming increasingly important and it was interesting to hear the ‘historical Christian’ perspective on how these layers have evolved as a result of political developments in Israel.

The reflection spent on appropriate discourse is encouraging. When most debate can be limited to 140 characters, depth of thought, particularity and sensitivity of language is most welcome.

In the UK, incidences of anti-Semitism are monitored by police and the Community Security Trust and the statistics are what we tend to use as our yardstick for measuring anti-Jewish hatred. It was encouraging to hear that from the point of view of those in the Holy See, anti-Semitism in Western Europe constitutes a mentality and, as such, is more challenging to measure by number of incidents.

There is a notion that issues surrounding anti-Semitism in Rome are deeper-rooted and perhaps based on the underlying history of communities. Work to reach out to Jewish communities and to seek to better confront anti-Semitic mindsets should not be underestimated. While there is significant work being done on anti-Semitism in the Vatican, alongside the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), there is always more that could and should be done.

The Vatican has yet to appoint an anti-Semitism envoy or to formally adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism. Britain was one of the first countries to formally adopt the definition. Embedding these structures and definitions would act as a driving force in setting the tone for other OSCE member states and we challenged government representatives at the Holy See to put these measures in place.

The leadership from The Holy Father and The Vatican is impressive and appreciated.

The Holy See provides the framework and message for churches around the world to follow. Our meetings gave us reason to have
faith in the future.

About the Author
Lord John Mann is an independent Advisor to UK Government on antisemitism, and a former Labour MP for Bassetlaw, who now sits in the House of Lords as a crossbench peer.