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Gregory was the name of 16 popes.

GREGORY I (the Great), pope 590–604; the most important of the earlier popes from the point of view of Jewish history. It was he who formulated the Jewish policy of the papacy, faithfully followed in subsequent generations in both its favorable and its unfavorable aspects. Complaining bitterly in his sermons of the obduracy of the Jews and their stony hearts, he took care that the canonical restrictions against them should be obeyed in all their rigor. Twenty-eight of his 800 extant letters deal with Jewish matters. He strongly objected to the observance of any ceremonies that savored Judaism or tended to obscure the boundaries between Church and Synagogue. Although approving of the initial stages of the reactions against the Jews in Spain under the Visigoths, nevertheless he insisted that the Jews should be treated with humanity and endeavored to have their legal rights confirmed and respected. The Jews of Italy and other countries frequently appealed to Gregory for protection. He was indignant when synagogues were destroyed and ordered them to be rebuilt. While condemning forced baptisms, he did not object to the offering of material benefits to prospective converts; although such actual converts might be insincere, their children would be brought up as faithful Christians. One of his epistles, beginning with the words Sicut Judaeis, emphasized that the Jews must be protected in the enjoyment of those rights guaranteed to them by law, and this phrase was prefixed (from the 12th century onward) to the traditional protective bull generally issued by every pope on his accession.

[Cecil Roth]

GREGORY IX, pope 1227–41. Shortly after his election, Gregory granted the crusaders against the Albigenses a moratorium on their debts to Jews and canceled the interest due. In 1229, he laid down that a Jewish child who his converted father had baptized was to be entrusted to the father and not to the mother if she remained Jewish. During the same year, he also ordered that strong measures be taken against Jews who refused to pay the church tithes (which were due on houses acquired from Christians). Although the collection of decretals drawn up by Raymond of Peñafort (as a continuation of the decree of Gratian) in 1230 and promulgated by Gregory in 1234 includes Gregory the Great’s letter on the protection of synagogues, it also contains two texts from the Third Lateran Council which are unfavorable to the Jews. Intervening against the Jews of Hungary, Castile, and Portugal in 1231, he insisted on the observation of the canons relating to the Jewish badge and the prohibition on the appointment of Jews to public office. In 1233, in Germany, he also condemned the employment of Christian servants by the Jews. However, during the same year, he issued the protective bull Etsi Judaeorum and, in 1235, reminded all Christians of the terms of the bull Sicut Judaeis. Similarly, on September 5, 1236, he issued orders to several archbishops and bishops of southwestern and western France to compel the crusaders to make good the losses the Jews had suffered at their hands. On several occasions from 1237 on Gregory replied to the anxieties expressed by King Louis IX of France over the use which should be made of the money paid by the Jews, inevitably derived from usury; the pope advised the king to employ this money for the relief of Constantinople or the Holy Land. On June 20, 1239, he published his bull Si vera sunt addressed to the kings and prelates of France and Spain. In it, Gregory ordered the confiscation, inspection, and burning of the Talmud, or any other Jewish book which might be construed as blasphemy. Over the next three centuries, this Bull would serve to encourage the repeated burnings of the Talmud, and other Jewish books.

GREGORY X, pope 1271–76; one of the popes most kindly disposed toward the Jews. Renewing the bull of protection Sicut Judaeis in 1272, he added an important clause: an accusation against Jews based solely on the testimony of Christians was invalid; Jewish witnesses must also appear. Gregory vigorously combated the blood libel, declaring that it was no more than an invention propagated in order to extort money from the Jews. He ordered that tribunals were not even to take such accusations into consideration: Jews who had been imprisoned on this charge were to be set free immediately, and in the future, a Jew was only to be arrested if actually caught in the act. At the Council of Lyons, in the summer of 1274, Gregory met Nathan b. Joseph Official, with whom he had a lengthy discussion. In a memorandum drawn up for this council by Humbert of Romans in support of Gregory’s policy, a long passage comes to the defense of the Jews against future attacks by crusaders. It should be noted, however, that Gregory also renewed the bull of Clement IV, Turbato Corde, which delivered the Jews (relapsed converts and their accomplices) into the hands of the Inquisition.

GREGORY XIII, pope 1572–85. It may be common knowledge that this pope reformed the calendar, but it is less well-known that Jews most probably contributed to this. Gregory’s policy toward the Jews cannot be distinctly characterized, since it swayed between relative favor and severity. Soon after his election, he protected the Jews in the ghetto of Rome who were in danger of being attacked by the soldiers. Further, an order issued by his notary threatened with hanging any non-Jew found in the ghetto or its vicinity without a valid reason. Gregory authorized once more moneylending with a maximum interest rate of 24%. A warrant of June 10, 1577, confirmed the statutes of the Jewish community and permitted the collection of taxes. In 1581, he guaranteed the safe conduct of Jews coming into Italy or passing through the country. Although Marranos were also able to benefit from this concession, Gregory nevertheless allowed the Marrano Joseph Saralbo, who had returned to Judaism in Ferrara, to be condemned to the stake in 1583. In 1584, he ordered the Jews of Rome to send 100 men and 50 women every Saturday afternoon to listen to missionary sermons, which were delivered in a church near the ghetto, often with the collaboration of apostate preachers. The Jewish community was compelled to defray the costs of this institution, as well as the expenses of the House of Catechumens. In order that converts should not be defrauded of their share in the family fortune, Gregory ordered that an inventory of a family’s belongings be drawn up immediately after the baptism of one of its members. The bull Antiqua Judaeorum improbitas, of June 1, 1581, authorized the Inquisition directly to handle cases involving Jews, especially those concerning blasphemies against Jesus or Mary, incitement to heresy or assistance to heretics, possession of forbidden books, or the employment of Christian wet nurses. During the same year, however, following the intervention by Avtalion Modena, Gregory suspended the order which he had just issued confiscating the books of several Jewish communities of Italy. In 1581, he also exempted the Jews from wearing the badge on certain occasions (journeys, visits to fairs). He also issued a bull in 1581 that forbade Jews from working as doctors, holding prestigious or public positions, or collecting taxes. The prohibition against Jewish physicians treating Christian patients contributed to the decline of medical science among Italian Jews. However, shortly before his death, Gregory intervened with the Knights of Malta to obtain the release of Jewish prisoners in their hands, even though the ransom he offered was lower than the sum demanded.

[Bernhard Blumenkranz]


GREGORY I: S. Katz, in: JQR, 34 (1933/34), 113–36; B. Blumenkranz, Juifs et chrétiens dans le monde occidental 430–1096 (1960), passim. GREGORY IX: S. Grayzel, Church and the Jews in the XIIIth Century (19662), passim; Vogelstein-Rieger, 211, 232–37; L. Auvray (ed.), Les registres de Gregory IX, 4 vols. (1890–1955); E. Friedberg (ed.), Décrétales (1881); A. Clerval, in: Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, 6 (1924), 1805–6. GREGORY X: S. Grayzel, Church and the Jews in the XIIIth Century (19662), index; Vogelstein-Rieger, 244f.; L. Gatto, II pontificato di Gregorio X (1959), passim; P.A. Throop, Criticism of the Crusade (1940), 166ff. GREGORY XIII: Vogelstein-Rieger, 169–76; Roth, Italy, 315–7 and passim; Milano, Italia, 255–7 and passim; L. v. Pastor, Storia dei Papi, 9 (1955), passim.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.