Spanish Catholic Church to Investigate Anti-Semitic Rituals | Spain

The Spanish Catholic Church said it would investigate anti-Semitic rituals after an Israeli newspaper revealed towns and villages continue to commemorate the ‘blood libel’ that Jews use the blood of Christian children in religious rituals.

Libel, which dates back at least to the early Middle Ages, was used to justify the expulsion of the Jewish population from Spain in 1492.

The Ha’aretz newspaper reported last weekend that the myth lives on every year in parishes in Toledo, Zaragoza and elsewhere, with rituals backed by both the church and local authorities.

One of the most famous is Santo Niño de La Guardia in Toledo, central Spain. The myth dates back to 1480 when a village child was allegedly kidnapped and murdered by Jews, although at the time no children were reported missing. Each September, villagers carry an effigy of the child to church where it is blessed by the clergy during a five-day festival. The child is revered as a saint.

In the Basilica of Zaragoza, there is a chapel dedicated to a child who was allegedly kidnapped and tortured by local Jews. On October 13, a special service is held in memory of the child.

“The case of the Niño de La Guardia is particularly serious because year after year the civil authorities continue to support this celebration,” said Jacob Daniel Benzaquén, president of the Spanish Network of Jewish Communities. “It is very sad that these events continue to this day and are celebrated with such enthusiasm and shame that the church authorities did not put an end to them, despite our requests.”

Sources close to the Archbishop of Madrid told the El Confidencial news site that the church is reviewing “cults and rituals involving saints such as the Niño de La Guardia which refer to the legend that Jews killed Christian children to celebrate Passover”.

Spain’s long and glorious Jewish history is largely overlooked, but prejudice lives on in rituals such as the Niño de La Guardia or in place names such as Castrillo Matajudíos (Castrillo kills the Jews), which only voted only to change its name to Castrillo Mota de Judíos. (Castrillo Hill of the Jews) in 2014.

The Ha’aretz revelations come at a time when cities like Barcelona are trying to attract Israeli tourists with the Shalom Barcelona campaign.

Martha J. Finley