Departing from prepared remarks at his weekly Papal audience in Rome, the Pope said: “I would like to make a separate note. The Jewish people have suffered so much in history, they have been chased away, they too have been persecuted.
“In the last century we saw so many brutalities against the Jewish people, and we were all convinced that this was over. But today the habit of persecuting the Jews, brothers and sisters, is here reborn. This is neither human nor Christian.”
He continued: “The Jews are our brothers and should not be persecuted, understand?”
The Pope did not refer to any specific case or incident, but his comments come after an 89-year-old Auschwitz survivor was placed under police protection after receiving online and offline anti-Semitic threats in Italy, according to local reports.
Liliana Segre, who was only 13 when she was deported to Auschwitz, is a senator-for-life who recently spearheaded the creation of a parliamentary committee against hate, racism and anti-Semitism, also known locally as the Segre commission.
She has become the target of about 200 “particularly aggressive” social media attacks each day, the Milan-based Foundation Jewish Contemporary Documentation Center told CNN earlier this month.
The center has reported a significant rise in anti-Semitic attacks in Italy, particularly online.
“Since the beginning of the year to the end of September, we recorded about 190 anti-Semitic incidents, about 70% online,” Stefano Gatti, from the center, told CNN. For comparison, the total episodes for the whole of last year were 197 and 130 for 2017.
Results of a survey carried out by pollster ComRes for CNN last year showed that anti-Semitic stereotypes were alive and well in Europe with more than a quarter of Europeans polled believing Jews had too much influence in business and finance.
Meanwhile, a third of Europeans in the poll said they knew just a little or nothing at all about the Holocaust, the mass murder of some six million Jews in lands controlled by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime in the 1930s and 1940s.
CNN’s Gianluca Mezzofiore and Aimee Lewis contributed to this report