VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI has rejected the idea of Jesus as a “revolutionary”, saying he used the “power of love” in a new book in which he also says the Jews were not responsible for Christ’s death.
Jesus “does not come as a destroyer. He does not come bearing the sword of a revolutionary,” the pope — a well-known theologian in his own right — writes in the second volume of “Jesus of Nazareth”, his biography of Christ.
Jesus instead comes to the world “with the gift of healing”, the pope says, to reveal God’s power as “the power of love.”
The book went on sale in bookshops on Thursday, and will be officially presented by the Vatican later in the day.
The Vatican said 1.2 million copies of the book had already been published in seven languages, including 200,000 copies in German, 150,000 in English and 100,000 in French and Spanish. E-book and audio book versions are planned.
In the biography, Benedict also says that Jesus separated religion and politics “thereby changing the world: this is what truly marks the essence of his new path.
“This separation… of politics from faith, of God’s people from politics, was ultimately possible only through the cross,” he said.
The 83-year old pontiff also speaks out against religious violence, following a wave of attacks on Christians in several parts of the Muslim world, including the New Year’s Eve bomb outside a church in Egypt which killed 23.
The head of the world’s one billion Catholics also touches on topical issues, such as the staying power of the world’s despots.
“Isn’t it true that the great dictatorships were fed by the power of the ideological lie and that only truth was capable of bringing freedom?” he said.
To the acclaim of Israel and Jewish groups worldwide, Benedict also exonerates the Jewish people as a whole from responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and calls for dialogue between the two faiths.
The pope writes that those responsible for Christ’s crucifixion were the “aristocracy of the temple” in Jerusalem and the “masses” who acclaimed Barabbas instead of Jesus — not “the Jewish people as a whole”.
“After centuries of antagonism, we now see it as our task,” Benedict says, to ensure Christianity and Judaism “enter into dialogue with one another, if we are to understand God’s will and his word.”
Tensions between Judaism and Catholicism have been high for centuries because of Catholic blame of the Jews for Christ’s death, and a Vatican Council in the 1960s that exonerated them failed to end tensions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier hailed the pope’s “courage,” commending him for “forcefully rejecting… a false charge that has been a foundation for the hatred of the Jewish people for many centuries.”
The World Jewish Congress also praised the pope, with director Ronald Lauder saying that it set “an important marker against anti-Semitism in the Church.”
The first volume of the biography, which went on sale in Italy on the pope’s 80th birthday in 2007, sold well, with 50,000 copies of the 350,000-strong print run snapped up on the first day.
In his controversial 2010 book “Light of the World”, based on 20 hours of interviews conducted by German journalist Peter Seewald, the pope broke a taboo with his declaration that condom use was acceptable “in certain cases”.