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BENEDICT° , name of 16 popes, several of whom had significant contacts with Jews. benedict viii (1012–1024) ordered the execution of a number of Roman Jews in 1020 or 1021, on a charge that they had mocked the cross and thereby caused an earthquake which killed a number of Christians. benedict xii (1334–1342) gave proof of his conversionary zeal when in 1320, while still bishop of Pamiers, he argued with a certain Baruch who had been forced into Christianity during the *Pastoureaux persecutions. He displayed the same zeal in 1338 by urging all Christians to aid in the pursuit of converted Jews who changed their places of residence in order to revert to Judaism. In 1335 he ordered the destruction of a synagogue in Posen because it had been erected too near a Cistercian chapel. He complained to King Pedro of Aragon in 1340 that Jews and Muslims were erecting too many synagogues and mosques and were enjoying too many contacts with Christians. At the same time, he was deeply concerned over the report by Albert ii, duke of Austria, in 1338, that the Jews of *Passau had been falsely accused of having desecrated the *Host. A similar charge in *Nuremberg a few years previously had also proved false. The pope now ordered the bishop of Passau not to permit the Jews to suffer if they had been unjustly accused. benedict xiii (Peter de Luna, 1394–1417) does not belong to the apostolic succession, since he is counted as an anti-pope during the Great Schism of the Church. His hostility to Jews and Judaism was evident during his period in Avignon (1394–1411). In 1396 he acted upon the accusation that the Jews of Geneva were enjoying many privileges under the protection of the local authorities; he also charged the leaders of the Avignon Jews with exceeding their powers. In 1403 he granted a three-year moratorium on debts owed by Christians to Jews. He did grant the Jews of Toro (Castile), in 1404, the right to have a synagogue in place of the two they had had before the persecutions in Spain in 1391, but this had already been granted them by the king of Castile. His attempt in 1410 to calm the excessive zeal of the inquisitors in Majorca may also have been due to the exigencies of diplomacy rather than to personal good will. His really spectacular anti-Jewish activity began when, expelled from Avignon, he moved to his native Spain, still claiming to be the only legitimate pope. The depressed condition of the Spanish Jews at the time persuaded him that he could startle Christendom by obtaining the conversion of all Spanish Jewry. The Disputation of *Tortosa was the result. When it was concluded in May 1415, Benedict issued his Bull Etsi doctoribus gentium imposing every conceivable restriction on Jewish life. It condemned the Talmud and ordered it expurgated of every statement that might appear uncomplimentary to Christianity, and it made contact between Jews and Christians all but impossible. The Bull's enforcement lapsed after Benedict xiii was deposed by the Council of Constance in 1417; but its spirit remained alive and found echoes in a number of *Bulls by later popes. benedict xiii (1724–1730) used every pressure, especially economic, on the inhabitants of the Roman ghetto to become converted to Christianity. He personally participated in the ceremonious baptism of 26 of them. He tried to limit Jewish trade to nonessentials. benedict xiv (1740–1758) was deeply interested in the rigid interpretation and enforcement of Canon Law. Consequently, while reaffirming the right of the Jews of Avignon to trade in cloth, he increased the onus of the Jewish badge for the Jews of Rome by ordering them to wear it even when on a journey. A mere suspicion of consent was now enough to declare a Jew properly baptized; while a child, even if baptized without parental consent, was compelled to remain a Christian. Converts were limited to marrying only born Christians. Twice during his pontificate, in 1753 and 1755, Jewish books were confiscated and examined for anti-Christian statements. Yet he recognized that Jewish taxation was too heavy. Moreover, it was under his auspices that Lorenzo Ganganelli (later Pope *Clementxvi) drew up his memorandum concerning the *blood libel, and Benedict subsequently wrote to the authorities in Poland deploring the recent wave of accusations.

For Benedict xvi, see *Popes; *Vatican.


benedict vii:

Roth, Dark Ages, 76, 119; Vogelstein-Rieger, 1 (1896), 213. benedict xii: Grayzel, in: hj, 17 (1955), 89–120; mhj, 1 (1903), 62, no. 36; Baron, Social2, 11 (1967), 170f., 267. benedict xiii (antipope): Baer, Spain, 2 (1966), 155, 167, 229ff., 393f.; M. Simonsohn, Kirchliche Judengesetzgebung im Zeitalter der Reformkonzilien von Konstanz und Basel (1912). benedict xiii: E. Rodocanachi, Le Saint-Siège et les Juifs (1891), 220, 284; Roth, Italy, 381. benedict xiv: C. Roth, Ritual Murder Libel and the Jew (1934); Roth, Italy, 379, 411; Rodocanachi, op. cit., 266, 284, 292; Vogelstein-Rieger, 2 (1895), 242, 245ff.; New Catholic Encyclopedia, index.

[Solomon Grayzel]