By Frank Wessling
News headlines sometimes make an alert reader wince. One such happened last week when a prominent newspaper ran this banner across the top of a page: “Pope exonerates Jews for Jesus’ death in book.”
Pope Benedict did not and could not exonerate Jews. The Second Vatican Council of the Church — 1962-1965 — declared that the Jewish people as a whole were not responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion, thus definitively if tardily correcting a deadly misreading of the Gospel that mars Christian history. What the pope did was write a book, “Jesus of Nazareth, Part II,” in which he lays out the reasons for the council’s teaching.
What the pope did may help more people understand a crucial element of the Gospel, and how our ancestors in the faith got it wrong. But Vatican II did the original work.