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Sicut Judaeis

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Sicut Judaeis (the "Constitution for the Jews") was a papal bull setting out the official position of the papacy regarding the treatment of Jews.

The first bull was issued in about 1120 by Pope Calixtus II and was intended to protect Jews who suffered during the First Crusade, during which over five thousand Jews were slaughtered in Europe. The words "Sicut Judaeis" ("and thus to the Jews") were first used by Pope Gregory I (590-604) in a letter addressed to the Bishop of Naples. Even then the Pope emphasized that Jews were entitled to "enjoy their lawful liberty."[1]

The bull was reaffirmed by many popes including  Alexander III, Celestine III (1191-1198), Innocent III (1199), Honorius III (1216), Gregory IX (1235), Innocent IV (1246), Alexander IV (1255), Urban IV (1262), Gregory X (1272 & 1274), Nicholas III,  Martin IV (1281), Honorius IV (1285-1287), Nicholas IV (1288-92), Clement VI (1348), Urban V (1365), Boniface IX (1389), Martin V (1422), and Nicholas V (1447).[2]

The bull forbade, besides other things, Christians from coercing Jews to convert, or to harm them, or to take their property, or to disturb the celebration of their festivals, or to interfere with their cemeteries, on pain of excommunication.

It is evident from the need to repeatedly reaffirm the papal teaching that the popes influence had limited impact in the real world. The history of medieval and modern Christian-Jewish relations reveals the inability of the popes to protect Jews from mistreatment, or worse. Some later papal bulls in fact removed some rights from the Jews recognised by the original bull.

Extracts from the bull

Pope Alexander III is the author of the oldest version of the bull that still exists today. Excerpts from the translation of the bull follows:

"[The Jews] ought to suffer no prejudice. We, out of the meekness of Christian piety, and in keeping in the footprints or Our predecessors of happy memory, the Roman Pontiffs Calixtus, Eugene, Alexander, Clement, admit their petition, and We grant them the buckler of Our protection.
For We make the law that no Christian compel them, unwilling or refusing, by violence to come to baptism. But, if any one of them should spontaneously, and for the sake of the faith, fly to the Christians, once his choice has become evident, let him be made a Christian without any calumny. Indeed, he is not considered to possess the true faith of Christianity who is not recognized to have come to Christian baptism, not spontaneously, but unwillingly.
Too, no Christian ought to injure their persons, or with violence to take their property, or to change the good customs which they have had until now in whatever region they inhabit.
Besides, in the celebration of their own festivities, no one ought disturb them in any way, with clubs or stones, nor ought any one try to require from them or to extort from them services they do not owe, except for those they have been accustomed from times past to perform.
...We decree... that no one ought to dare mutilate or diminish a Jewish cemetery, nor, in order to get money, to exhume bodies once they have been buried.
If anyone, however, shall attempt, the tenor of this degree once known, to go against it...let him be punished by the vengeance of excommunication, unless he correct his presumption by making equivalent satisfaction."[3]


  1. Wikisource-logo.svg "History of Toleration". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  2. The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492-1404; Simonsohn, Shlomo, p.68,143,?,211,242,245-246,249,254,260,265,396,430,507; Jewish Encyclopedia on the Popes.
  3. Synan, Edward. The Popes and the Jews in the Middle Ages. 231-232.
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Sicut Judaeis. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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