“Quick Fix of the Month” is a feature where we expose those who choose a fast and superficial solution to an anti-religious accusation.
The church of Saint Catherine in Brussels removed an antisemitic sentence from an information placard, after receiving complaints from a Belgian blogger and several visitors.
The information board reported the legend of “the Sacrament of Miracle” without labelling it as an antisemitic legend and episode.
The antisemitic sentence, which is now covered with white tape, said: “in April 1370, it [the stolen holy bread] was violently stabbed with knives in a synagogue in Brussels: blood spurred miraculously, under the eyes of the amazed desecrators”.
According to the legend, 16 communion hosts (the sacred bread used in Christian mass) were stolen from Saint Catherine's Church in October 1369. The following year in April, the myth says that some Jews in a synagogue stabbed the hosts and that some blood traces appeared. These hosts were allegedly stored and venerated as relics in the chapel of Saint Gudula, the patron saint of Brussels and became a feature of the annual procession on the Saint’s feast day. As a consequence of this alleged host desecration, a number of Jews were killed and the rest of the Jewish community was banished in what is now known as “the Brussels Massacre.”
In Christianity, the host desecration is the mistreatment of the consecrated wafer which, according to the doctrine, has the real presence of Christ in it. It is considered a heretic action. Throughout the Middle Ages in Europe, accusations of host desecration against Jews were used as a common excuse to carry out massacres and expulsions. In line with the libel of "Jewish deicide" that sees Jews as the killers of Christ, Jews were falsely accused of stealing hosts and mistreating them, for example recreating the crucifixion of Jesus by stabbing them.
In the Church of Saint Catherine in Brussels, in addition to the antisemitic sentence that was recently covered, there is also a poster that promotes a book on the Sacrament of Miracle published by an association called “Les Amis de Sainte-Catherine” (Friends of Saint Catherine), which is sold at the church shop. This book, written by Veronique Hargot-Deltenre, was condemned in a statement by the National Catholic Commission for the Relations with the Jewish World (CNCJ) for “supporting her research only with medieval authors, without critical analysis of them.”
One of the chapters of the book is titled “outdated antisemitism,” however, CNCJ argue that this obscures the gravity of antisemitism in the present. The president of the Friends of Saint Catherine has rejected all the accusations about the book, received after the story of the antisemitic statements in the church was reported by some Belgian news media outlets.
This case highlights the presence of anti-Jewish hostility within the history of Christianity in Europe. It also shows the importance of adding contextual information that exposes historical antisemitic labels and their consequences in the lives of Jews today.