Monday, April 6, 2020

Italy: Bishop condemns antisemitic painting

An influential Bishop in Italy has weighed in on the controversy surrounding a painting produced by an Italian artist, Giovanni Gasparro. The painting, which Gasparro produced in late 2019 and early 2020 is titled “The Martyrdom of St. Simon of Trento for Jewish Ritual Murder.”

Bishop Ambrogio Spreafico, who serves as president of the Episcopal Commission of the Italian Episcopal Conference for ecumenism and dialogue, denounced the painting as “a sad demonstration of how much the human mind chases old stereotypes.” (The Bishop’s denunciation of Gasparro’s antisemitic painting was published in Chiesa, an influential Catholic newspaper in Italy.)

The painting depicts a blood libel based on debunked accusations leveled at the Jewish community living in Trent in 1475. Fifteen Jews were the victims of judicially sanctioned murder as a result of this libel. Most of the victims confessed under torture.

Sadly, Gasparro, who posted images of his painting on his Facebook page on March 25, 2020, is a well-known painter in Italy and has done a substantial work for Catholic places of worship in that country, which makes Bishop Spreafico’s robust condemnation particularly compelling.

The Bishop’s condemnation demonstrates that Gasparro didn’t just offend Jewish sensibilities in a naked attempt to attract attention, but crossed a line regarding Church teachings by promoting a blood libel that had been repudiated by the Church after the passage of Nostra Aetate by the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) in 1965. Nostra Aetate rejected the notion that the Jewish people are collectively responsible for the death of Jesus and condemned antisemitism in all its forms.
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