Cardinal apologises for describing Jews as intellectually inferior

Barney Zwartz April 13, 2012

Catholic Cardinal George Pell.

Cardinal George Pell: Clarification.

CARDINAL George Pell has moved to clarify demeaning remarks he made about Jews on TV, calling them intellectually lesser than the Egyptians, including Jesus Christ.

During the ABC's Q&A TV debate with atheist advocate Richard Dawkins on Monday night, he also suggested that ''no people in history were [as severely] punished as the Germans were'', apparently ignoring the Holocaust, for which the Germans were punished.

After the Executive Council of Australian Jewry conveyed its ''serious concern'', Cardinal Pell, the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, released a statement saying he was sorry the points did not come out as he preferred.

He said he was trying to ''make a point about the unique place of the Jewish people in human history as the first to receive the revelation of the one true God while I was being regularly interrupted and distracted by the chairman'' (Tony Jones).

In a hole during the debate, Cardinal Pell kept digging, saying ''the poor, the little Jewish people, they were originally shepherds'' stuck between the great powers of their time such as the Egyptians and Babylonians, and that this reflected their intellectual development.

Asked if he included Jesus, who was Jewish (but born about 1800 years after the prophet Abraham, by which time there was a significant Jewish civilisation), the cardinal replied: ''Exactly.''

He could have avoided giving offence had he quoted Deuteronomy, the fifth of the five books of Moses in the Jewish Torah, which he clearly had in mind: ''The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all people.''

In his statement Cardinal Pell said that ''historically'' or ''culturally'' unequal might have been a better term than ''intellectually''.

He said his reference to the Germans was intended to illustrate ''the mysterious way great crimes'' are punished.

''My esteem for the Jewish faith is a matter of public record, and the last thing I would want to do is give offence.''

The Australian Jewish News, published today, headlines its front page ''Clerical error'', with a large picture of the cardinal.

Editor Zeddy Lawrence said many people had contacted the paper, upset and offended.

''It doesn't seem he was thinking clearly, but many people also said he is a good friend to the community,'' Mr Lawrence said.

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