VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict, in a new book, has personally exonerated Jews of allegations they were responsible for Jesus Christ's death, repudiating the concept of collective guilt that has haunted Christian-Jewish relations for centuries.
The pope makes his complex theological and biblical evaluation in a section of the second volume of his book "Jesus of Nazareth", which will be published next week. The Vatican released brief excerpts on Wednesday.
"Now we must ask: Who exactly were Jesus' accusers?" the pope asks, adding that the gospel of St. John simply says it was "the Jews."
"But John's use of this expression does not in any way indicate -- as the modern reader might suppose -- the people of Israel in general, even less is it 'racist' in character," he writes.
"After all John himself was ethnically a Jew, as were Jesus and all his followers. The entire early Christian community was made up of Jews," he writes.
Benedict says the reference was to the "Temple aristocracy," who wanted Jesus condemned to death because he had declared himself king of the Jews and had violated Jewish religious law.
He concludes that the "real group of accusers" were the Temple authorities and not all Jews of the time.