List of Papal Bulls on Jewish Question

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Following is a partial list of Papal Bulls and other relevant documents regarding the Jewish question, illustrating both the partial protection offered the Jews at different times and the institutionalization of Anti-Semitism.

Where protection was offered, it was often done in a condescending manner, asserting the Christian duty to have mercy on the Jews even though they were collectively guilty of killing Jesus (or in modern times, "forgiving" the Jews for killing Jesus) or was simply rescinding previous decrees. Catholic persecution of Jews - and protection - began in the Middle Ages, but the persecution continued and was intensified well after the Middle Ages, notably in the Inquisition and in the formation and regulation of ghettos, which began in the 1500s, well after the end of the Middle Ages. The Papal bulls and encyclicals that advanced and supported anti-Semitism included the following sorts of decrees:

  • Special badges or dress for Jews
  • Special taxes for Jews
  • Forcing Jews to remit debt of Christians
  • Banning, confiscating or burning Jewish law books and other writings.
  • Encouraging or forcing conversion of Jews 
  • Expelling Jews from Papal territories or forcing Jews to live in ghettos.
  • Inquisition for backsliding converted Jews,

Many believed and hoped that Catholic persecution of Jews had ended in the period of Pope John XXIII. Recent Bulls and Encyclicals of Pope Benedict XVI that reinstate anti-Semitic prayers and Catholic societies do not augur well.

Pius V was perhaps the worst of the anti-Semitic Popes. He was nonetheless canonized and the canonization was not rescinded.

In addition to the actual regulations depriving Jews of livelihood or home or forcing conversions, the Bulls often were prefaced with language of racist incitement that indicated the attitude of the Catholic Church to Jews.

The Bull Cum Nimis Absurdum ("How completely absurd") of Paul IV, 1555, which created the ghetto of Rome, began with these words:

As it is completely absurd and improper in the utmost that the Jews, who through their own fault were condemned by God to eternal servitude,

The Bull Hebraeorum gens ("The Jewish Race") 1569, of Saint Pius V, which expelled Jews from some of the Papal states, began with these words:

 "The Jewish people fell from the heights because of their faithlessness and condemned their Redeemer to a shameful death. Their godlessness has assumed such forms that, for the salvation of our own people, it becomes necessary to prevent their disease. Besides usury, through which Jews everywhere have sucked dry the property of impoverished Christians, they are accomplices of thieves and robbers; and the most damaging aspect of the matter is that they allure the unsuspecting through magical incantations, superstition, and witchcraft to the Synagogue of Satan and boast of being able to predict the future. We have carefully investigated how this revolting sect abuses the name of Christ and how harmful they are to those whose life is threatened by their deceit. On account of these and other serious matters, and because of the gravity of their crimes which increase day to day more and more, We order that, within 90 days, all Jews in our entire earthly realm of justice -- in all towns, districts, and places -- must depart these regions."

The above is quoted in modern anti-Semitic works, including Catholic publications and the Stormfront Website.

To the modern reader, the Papal bulls seem to present a conflicting picture. Sometimes privileges were revoked and sometimes extended. Often the same Pope would order protection of the Jews from bodily harm but enact discriminatory laws of various kinds. Thus, the church would encourage hatred of Jews, but then it would discourage violence against Jews. For Catholic theology there was no contradiction. The role of the Jews was to serve as an example of the wages of sin to Christians. Therefore, the Jews must be tortured and ridiculed, but never killed. 

The documents listed below are Papal Bulls unless otherwise noted. The Bulls get their titles from the initial words, generally the first three words, of the text of the document, which are known as the incipit. Note that there may be several Bulls with the same title by different Popes, and on entirely different subjects.

Explanation of terms:

"Jus Gasaga" - a corruption of "Jus Chazaka" - the law of the right of tenancy of Jews, usually in ghetto homes.

Catechumen - a person being taught the Catechism, a new convert. The Bulls called for a special tax on Jews, to be used to support the catechumens. The house of Catechumens in Rome was used as an instrument for forced conversion, and its victims included the chief Rabbi of Rome.

Neophyte - a new convert. 

The sources generally do not distinguish between Bulls, encyclicals and other documents of more limited circulation.

Papal Bulls and other documents Relating to Jews

Pope

Bull/Document

Date

Subject

Gregory I

Sicut  judaeis non

598

A letter, supplemented by others, provided limited protection of Jews. "Just as no freedom may be granted to the Jews in their communities to exceed the limits legally set for them, so they should in no way suffer through a violation of their rights"

The letter contained the phrase "Sicut Judaeis" - and thus to the Jews. Gregory forbade Jews to have Christian slaves, and encouraged conversions. The measures of protection along with limitations and persecution, and even the wording of Sicut iudaeis were repeated in subsequent bulls and letters of various popes. It became the model for treatment of Jews.

Calixtus II

Sicut Judaeis

c. 1120

Probably the first formal version of Sicut Judaies. Reiterates protection of the Jews in the wake of the persecutions of the first Crusade.

Innocent III

Post miserabile

Aug. 1198

Addressed to prelates of Europe and dealt with the need for another Crusade. Suspended payment of interest and principal to Jewish lenders for crusaders. Since many did not return, the debt was effectively cancelled.

Innocent III

Etsi non displiceat

1205

Addressed to King of France. Accuses Jews of usury, blasphemy, arrogance, employing Christian slaves and murder. Urges king to put an end to the "evils."

Honorius III

Sicut  judaeis non debet esse licentia

Nov. 7, 1217

Forbids forced baptism of Jews or molestation. 

Honorius III

In general consilio

1218

To archbishop of Toledo, requires enforcement of 4th Lateran Council decisions that Jews must wear special clothing and pay tithes to the local churches. 

Honorius III

Ad nostram Noveritis audientiam

April 29, 1221

Jews are obliged to carry a distinctive badge and forbidden to hold public office.

Gregory IX

Sufficere debuerat perfidioe judoerum perfidia

March 5, 1233

Jews forbidden to employ Christian servants.

Gregory IX

Etsi Judeorum

1233

To prelates of France, urged prevention of physical violence against Jews.

Gregory IX

Si vera sunt

1239

To kings and prelates of Spain and France - orders seizure of Talmud and other Jewish books and examination for blasphemy against Jesus. These books were regularly burned or censored. 

Innocent IV

Impia judoerum perfidia

May 9, 1244

French King ordered to burn the Talmud. Jews forbidden to employ Christian nurses.

Innocent IV

Lachrymabilem Judaeorum

1247

To German prelates; orders an end to persecution of Jews and declares that the blood libel accusation is false.

Clement IV

Turbato corde

July 26, 1267

Christians forbidden to embrace Judaism

Gregory X

Turbato corde

March 1, 1274

(Identical to previous.)

Nicolas III

Vineam Sorec

Aug. 4, 1278

Addressed to orders of friars - Preaching to the Jews is encouraged and friars are to be specially trained for this purpose. Also known as Vineam Soreth. 

Nicolas IV

Turbato corde

Sept. 5, 1288

Christians who embrace Judaism

John XXII

Ex Parte Vestra

Aug. 12, 1317

Relapse of converts.

John XXII

 Cum sit absurdum

June 19, 1320

Converted Jews need not be despoiled.

Clement VI

Quamvis Perfidiam

September 26, 1348

Tries in vain to dispel the superstition that Jews are responsible for Black Death by poisoning the wells

Urban V

Sicuti judaeis non debet

June 7, 1365

Forbidden to molest Jews or to force them to baptism.

Benedict XIII
(Anti-Pope)

Etsi doctoribus gentium

1415

A collection of anti-Jewish church legislation that served as an inspiration to other Popes.

Martin V

Sedes apostolica

June 3, 1425

Jews obliged to wear distinctive badge.

Eugene IV

Dudum ad nostram audientiam

Aug. 4, 1442

Forbade Jews to live with Christians or fill public functions, etc.

Calixtus III

Si ad reprimendos

May 28, 1456

Confirmed the preceding Bull of Eugene IV forbidding Jews to live with Christians.

Sixtus IV

Numquam dubitavimus

1482

To Ferdinand of Aragon, to appoint inquisitors to extirpate heresy and investigate backsliding of Jewish converts to Christianity. The Spanish Inquisition and expulsion of the Jews from Spain followed.

Paul III

Cupientes judaeos

March 21, 1542

Privileges in favor of neophytes.

Paul III

Illius, qui pro dominici

Feb. 19, 1543

Establishment of a monastery for catechumens and neophytes.

Jules III

Pastoris aeternivices

Aug. 31, 1554

Tax in favor of neophytes

Paul IV

Cum Nimis Absurdum

July 14, 1555

Jews forbidden to live in common with Christians, to practice any industry, etc.

Paul IV

Dudum postquam

March 23, 1556

Tax in favor of neophytes

Pius IV

Cum inter ceteras

Jan. 26, 1562

Bull relative to monastery of catechumens.

Pius IV

Dudum e felicis recordationis

Feb. 27, 1562

Bull confirming that of Paul IV.

Pius V

Romanus Pontifex

April 19, 1566

Bull confirming that of Paul IV

Pius V

Sacrosanctae catholicae ecclesiae

Nov. 29, 1566

Bull relating to convent of neophytes

Pius V

Cum nos nuper

Jan. 19, 1567

Jews are forbidden to own real estate

Pius V

Hebraeorum gens

Feb. 26, 1569

Accuses Jews of many evils including magic. Orders expulsion of Jews from Church States except Rome and Ancona.

Gregory XIII

Vices ejus nos

Sept. 1, 1577

Obligatory preaching of Christian sermons to Jews;. Creation of college of neophytes.

Gregory XIII

Antiqua judaeorum improbitas

July 1, 1581

Against blasphemers.

Gregory XIII

Sancta Mater Ecclesiae

Sept. 1, 1584

Obligatory preaching of Christian sermons to Jews;100 men and 50 women must be sent every Saturday to listen to conversion sermons delivered in a church near the ghetto.

Sixtus V

Christiana pietas

Oct. 22, 1586

Privileges granted to Jews by relief of former edicts. These were reversed. by Clemen VIII. 

Clement VIII

Cum saepe accidere 

Feb. 28, 1592

Jews of Avignon forbidden to sell new goods.

Clement VIII

Caeca et obdurata

Feb. 25, 1593

Confirmation of the Bull of Paul III. Jews forbidden to dwell outside of Rome, Ancona, and Avignon.

Clement VIII

Cum Haebraeorum malitia

Feb. 28, 1593

It is forbidden to read the Talmud.

Paul V

Apostolicae servitutis

July 31, 1610

Regulars (of monks) obliged to learn Hebrew.

Paul V

Exponi nobis nuper fecistis

Aug. 7, 1610

Bull concerning the dowries of Jewish women.

Urban VIII

Sedes apostolica

April 22, 1625

Concerning heretical Portuguese Jews.

Urban VIII

Injuncti nobis

Aug. 20, 1626

Privileges granted to the monastery of catechumens

Urban VIII

Cum sicut acceptimus

Oct. 18, 1635

Obligation to feed poor Jews imprisoned for debt.

Urban VIII

Cum allias piae

March 17, 1636

Synagogues of the Duchies of Ferarri and Urban, to pay a tax of 10 ecus.

Alexander VII

Verbi aeterni

Dec. 1, 1657

Bull relating to rights of neophytes regarding jus gasaga.(rights of tenancy in the ghetto)

Alexander VII

Ad ea per quae

Nov. 15, 1658

Jus Gasaga (rights of tenancy in the ghetto)

Alexander VII

Ad apostolicae dignitatis

May 23, 1662

Concordat between the college of neophytes and German college.

Alexander VII

Illius, qui illuminat

March 6, 1663

Privileges favoring the fraternities of neophytes.

Alexander VIII

Animarum saluti

March 30, 1690

Bull relating to the neophytes in Indies.

Innocent XII

Ad radicitus submovendum

Aug. 31, 1692

Abolition of special jurisdiction

Clement XI

Propagandae per unicersum

March 11, 1704

Confirmation and extension of Paul III regarding neophytes.

Clement XI

Essendoci stato rappresentato

Jan. 21, 1705

Powers of Vicar of Rome in jurisdiction of catechumens and neophytes

Clement XI

Salvatoris nostri vices

Jan. 2, 1712

Transfer to "Pii Operai" the work of the catechumens.

Innocent XIII

Ex injuncto nobis

Jan. 18, 1724

Prohibits sale of new objects.

Benedict XIII

Nuper, pro parte dilectorum

Jan. 8, 1726

Establishment of dowries for young girl neophytes.

Benedict XIII

Emanavit nuper

Feb. 14, 1727

Necessary conditions for imposing baptism on a Jew.

Benedict XIII

Alias emanarunt

March 21, 1729

Forbidding the sale of new goods.

Benedict XIV

Postremomens

Feb. 28, 1747

The baptism of Jews

Benedict XIV

Apostolici Ministerii munus

Sept. 16, 1747

Right of repudiation of neophytes.

Benedict XIV

Singulari Nobis consoldtioni

Feb. 9, 1749

Marriages between Jews and Christians.

Benedict XIV

Elapso proxime Anno

Feb. 20, 1751

Concerning Jewish heretics.

Benedict XIV

Probe te meminisse

Dec. 15, 1751

Baptism of Jewish children

Benedict XIV

Beatus Andreas

Feb. 22, 1755

Martyrdom of a child by Jews. A blood libel concerning the murder of the child Andreas Oxner or Anderl von Rinn (Andreas of Rinn ) by Jews that supposedly took place in 1462 in Rinn near Innsbruck. Confirms the blood libel as factual.  The Bull reviews the cases of ritual murder by Jews, which it explicitly upholds as a fact, and establishes the beatifcation but not the canonization of Andreas of Rinn and Simon of Trent


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