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February 26: Hebraeorum gens

February 26, 2013

Pope Pius V, one of the most anti-Semitic of popes, issued a papal bull on this date in 1569, Hebraeorum gens (The Jewish Race), which expelled Jews from much of Italy and France. "The Jewish people fell from the heights because of their faithlessness and condemned their Redeemer to a shameful death," it began. "Their godlessness has assumed such forms that, for the salvation of our own people, it becomes necessary to prevent their disease." Within ninety days, all Jews "in our entire earthly realm of justice — in all towns, districts, and places" — were ordered to depart or be enslaved. Jews were able to take refuge in the slums of Rome and Verona, where the bull never took effect, but several thousand were forced into exile. The towns of Ravenna, Orvieto, Viterbo, Perugia, Spoleto, and Terracina were emptied of Jews, and the Papal States lost numerous entrepreneurs, craftsmen, merchants, and professionals.

"They allure the unsuspecting through magical incantations, superstition, and witchcraft to the Synagogue of Satan and boast of being able to predict the future. We have carefully investigated how this revolting sect abuses the name of Christ and how harmful they are to those whose life is threatened by their deceit." —Pius V (canonized in 1712)