Christian-Jewish Relations: Pope Benedict XIV on Jews
(June 14, 1751)
On Jews and Christians Living in the Same Place
A Quo Primum Encyclical of Pope Benedict XIV promulgated on June 14, 1751.
To the Primate, Archbishops and Bishops, of the Kingdom of Poland.
Venerable Brothers, We give you Greeting and Our Apostolic Blessing.
God in his goodness allowed Catholicism to take root in Poland at the end of the tenth century during the reign of Our predecessor Leo VIII. At the time, the efforts of King Mieszko and his Christian consort Dobrava (Dlugosz, Annalium vestrorum Scriptorum, 2, 94) encouraged the spread of Christianity. Since then pious and devout Poles have continued the faithful practice of their new religion. During this time various sects have attempted to establish themselves in Poland and to spread the seeds of their errors, heresies, and evil opinions. But the faithful Polish people have strongly withstood their efforts.
We esteem the glorious memory of Polish martyrs, confessors, virgins and holy men; their exemplary lives are recorded in the holy annals of the Church. We also recall the many successful councils and synods which gloriously defeated the Lutherans who tried tenaciously, using a variety of methods, to establish a foothold and welcome in this kingdom. At that time indeed the great council of Piotrkow met under Our great predecessor and fellow citizen Gregory XIII, with prelate Lippomano, bishop of Verona and Apostolic nuncio, as its president. To the great glory of God it prohibited the principle of freedom of conscience; adherents of this principle were seeking to introduce and establish it in Poland. Another threat to Christians has been the influence of Jewish faithlessness; this influence was strong because Christians and Jews were living in the same cities and towns. However their influence was minimized because the Polish bishops did all they could to aid the Poles in their resistance to the Jews. What the bishops did is recorded in the large tome which contains the constitutions of the synods of the province of Gniezno. These facts establish most clearly and plainly the great glory which the Polish nation has won for its zeal in preserving the holy religion embraced by its ancestors so many ages before.
2. In regard to the matter of the Jews We must express our concern, which causes Us to cry aloud: "the best color has been changed." Our credible experts in Polish affairs and the citizens of Poland itself who communicated with Us have informed Us that the number of Jews in that country has greatly increased. In fact, some cities and towns which had been predominantly Christian are now practically devoid of Christians.
The Jews have so replaced the Christians that some parishes are about to lose their ministers because their revenue has dwindled so drastically. Because the Jews control businesses selling liquor and even wine, they are therefore allowed to supervise the collection of public revenues. They have also gained control of inns, bankrupt estates, villages and public land by means of which they have subjugated poor Christian farmers. The Jews are cruel taskmasters, not only working the farmers harshly and forcing them to carry excessive loads, but also whipping them for punishment. So it has come about that those poor farmers are the subjects of the Jews, submissive to their will and power. Furthermore, although the power to punish lies with the Christian official, he must comply with the commands of the Jews and inflict the punishments they desire. If he doesn't, he would lose his post. Therefore the tyrannical orders of the Jews have to be carried out.