Australian Jewish groups have rebuked the head of the country’s Catholic church
for comments he made on the Holocaust during a televised debate aired on April
10 with evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.
Archbishop of Sydney
George Pell pointed toward the suffering of the Germans when asked why the deity
he believes in had allowed the murder of six million Jews during the
“[God] helped probably through secondary causes for the Jews
to escape and continue,” Pell said. “It’s interesting, through these secondary
causes, probably no people in history have suffered the way the Germans were
The cardinal quickly backtracked, however, when the moderator
said there would be a “strong argument to be made” that the Jews suffered more
than the Germans.
“Yes, that might be right,” a visibly flustered Pell
said. “I mean the Jews... there was no reason why they should
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, an umbrella group
that represents the country’s roughly 90,000 Jews, responded on Saturday by
calling the Catholic leader’s remarks “problematic.”
The cardinal later
issued an apology.
“The last thing I would want to do is give offense,”
“I am sorry that these points which I tried to make did not
come out as I would have preferred.”
The debate pitted the pious Pell
against Dawkins, a well-known advocate of atheism and scientific method. The two
exchanged opinions in front of a live television audience on a series of issues
including the existence of a supreme being, evolution, homosexuality and climate
The controversial remark by Pell came after he was asked by the
moderator why he believed an almighty being had intervened during biblical times
to save the Jews but did not prevent the Holocaust.
The EACJ welcomed
Pell’s apology, saying it was a “first step” in clarifying his statements.