The Catholic Church in Spain has announced an investigation into claims made in an Israeli newspaper that some towns and villages in the country still observe rituals relating to the antisemitic “blood libel”.
The blood libel is a racist claim that Jews use the blood of Christian children in religious rituals, and has been part of Christian – and, in the modern era, also Islamic – antisemitism for centuries. It was also used to justify the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.
According to the Haaretz newspaper, parishes in Toledo, Zaragoza and elsewhere continue to practice rituals, backed by the local churches and councils, based on the blood libel.
In Toledo, for example, the Santo Niño de La Guardia myth, which dates back to 1480, imagines that a child from the village was abducted and murdered by Jews, even though no child was reported missing at the time. Still, every September villagers carry an effigy of a child to the church where it is blessed by the clergy over the course of a five-day festival, with the child venerated as a saint.
Meanwhile, in the basilica of Zaragoza there is a chapel dedicated to a child allegedly abducted and tortured by local Jews, with a special service held on 13th October every year.
Jacob Daniel Benzaquén, the President of Spain’s Jewish communities, said: “The case of the Niño de La Guardia is especially serious because year after year the civil authorities continue to support this celebration. It’s very sad that these events continue to this day and are celebrated with such enthusiasm and a shame that the ecclesiastical authorities haven’t put an end to them, despite our requests.”
The El Confidencial news site reported that sources close to the Archbishop of Madrid have said that the church was revising “cults and rituals involving saints such as the Niño de La Guardia that refer to the legend that Jews killed Christian children in order to celebrate Passover.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism reports on news and incidents relating to antisemitism throughout Europe.