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Innocent was the name of 13 popes.

Innocent II (Gregorio Papareschi) was a pope 1130–43. His was an uncanonical election because the majority of the cardinals voted for Anacletus II (Pietro Pierleoni) to succeed Pope Honorius II creating a schism in the Church. The Jews of Rome supported Anacletus, whose opponents objected to his Jewish origin. However, Innocent and his party were in no way responsible for promoting an anti-Jewish movement. Although Innocent did not renew the bull Sicut Judaeis, neither did he encroach on the rights of the Jews in any respect. Anacletus lost support and the schism ended with his death.

Innocent III (Lothar of Segni; b. 1160 or 1161), pope 1198–1216. The goal of Innocent III was to make the Church, or rather the papacy, the sole power in the world. He was successful to a large degree in matters concerning the Jews – the changes he inaugurated on their account regulated the conditions of their lives in Christian countries throughout many succeeding centuries. His accession brought about a change in the papal attitude toward the Jews, and it must have been slender consolation to them that his attitude toward Christian heretics, especially the Albigenses in Southern France, was as cruel, if not more so. It was to encourage men to join the Crusade against these heretics that he canceled the interest on the crusaders’ debts to the Jews in 1198, 1199, 1200, 1209, and 1213. Although he renewed the bull Sicut Judaeis, he introduced his renewal by saying that because the Jews served to prove (through the Bible) the truth of the Catholic faith they were not to be "too severely" oppressed by the Christian faithful (1199). However, it was not until the end of his reign (1215 or 1216) that the pope deemed oppression severe enough to intervene – this was a persecution initiated by the crusaders, and Innocent ordered the archbishops and bishops of France to step in to protect the Jews.

On at least two occasions he ordered that material help be given to various Jewish converts (1199). Of particularly serious import was his letter to the archbishop of Arles (1201) on the topic of forced baptism; only a decided and resolute denial rendered this invalid. Although Innocent did not explicitly mention the Jews on this occasion, his decision obviously referred to them, as shown by his reference to the similar decision of the Fourth Council of Toledo in respect of the forced baptisms of Jews perpetrated by Sisebut (and see Church Councils).

From 1205, Innocent intervened in various countries – France, Castile, Aragon – to denounce what he termed Jewish abuses. He complained to Philip Augustus that the Jews were charging an excessive rate of interest; that they had built a synagogue in Sens which was taller than the neighboring church; that they appeared in public on Good Friday and jeered at Christians; and that they were receivers of stolen goods and murderers of Christians. In addition, Innocent protested that Christian servants lived in the homes of their Jewish masters. The pope complained to Alfonso VIII of Castile that the Jews fixed the price of the redemption of their slaves when they converted instead of contenting themselves with the price fixed by canon law and that not only did they avoid paying church tithes on their landed property but were always acquiring new property. Through the intermediary of the archbishop of Sens and the bishop of Paris, he interposed with the king of France, the duke of Burgundy, and the countess of Champagne against the employment of Christian wet nurses and servants by the Jews. When in 1207 he listed the sins committed by Raymond VI, count of Toulouse, he also accused him of having entrusted official duties to the Jews.

All this culminated in a series of four anti-Jewish canons promulgated at the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), instigated by Innocent or at the very least due to his decisive cooperation. They are familiar, in that they repeat all the objections voiced in Innocent’s letters: against an excessive interest rate; compulsory payment of church tithes; prohibition against appearing in public in Holy Week; banishment from public office; and pursuit of lapsed converts. Finally, they added a regulation expressing, in the clearest fashion possible, the social degradation, indeed exclusion, of the Jews – the distinctive Jewish article of clothing or badge.

Innocent IV (Sinibaldo Fieschi), pope 1243–54. Soon after his accession, in 1244, Innocent IV wrote to the king of France to warn him of a number of Jewish abuses – they were continuing to study the Talmud and employing Christian wet nurses – and to decree the burning of the Talmud and other forbidden Jewish books. In this he was simply completing the policy of his predecessor, Gregory IX. In fact, in 1247, he was swayed by the pleas of the Jews that they could neither study nor teach the Bible without the help of the Talmud. However, through his violent opposition to any kind of compromise Odo de Châteauroux secured Innocent’s confirmed condemnation of the Talmud in 1248. The pope was also eager to facilitate the conversion of the Jews and, in 1245, congratulated the king of Aragon for having ordained that converts might keep their fortunes and would be protected against their former coreligionists – who considered them as renegades – and for having compelled the Jews to attend missionary sermons. To this end, he intervened several times on behalf of converted Jews (1250), on one occasion to guarantee their exemption from taxes and on another to grant them aid. Reminding them of the necessity of enforcing the Fourth Lateran Council canon on the Jewish badge or distinctive clothing, he addressed himself to the archbishop of Besañçon in 1245, the bishop of Maguelonne in 1248, the bishop of Cordoba in 1250, and the bishop of Constance in 1254.

Although Innocent was rather tardy in confirming the bull of protection Sicut Judaeis in 1246 – for the popes usually promulgated it soon after their accession – he renewed it on many successive occasions, notably in 1249 when he added a condemnation of the blood libel. In 1246, he congratulated the king of Navarre for having protected the Jews against their persecutors, and a year later recriminated against the archbishop of  Vienne for the bloody persecutions, plundering, expulsions, and forced baptism of children of the Jews in his province after a blood libel in Valréas. In that same year, Innocent warned the archbishops and bishops of France and Germany against perpetrations of the blood libel. However, in 1253, soon after confirming the measures for protecting the Jews adopted at Wuerzburg, he allowed the archbishop of Vienne to expel the Jews. On the other hand, Innocent himself came to the aid of the Jews in recovering the debts owed to them in Champagne in 1247, although at the same time maintaining the exemption from paying interest and the moratorium on debts granted to the crusaders (1248, 1252, 1253).

Innocent VIII (Giovanni Battista Cibo; b. 1432), pope 1484–92. Innocent introduced a minor change in the arrangements of the ceremonies for the papal reception in Rome; the Jews were no longer to wait on the pope at Montegiordano, where they were exposed to the insults of the crowd, but to greet him within the first enclosure of the castle of Sant’ Angelo. However, Innocent’s papacy acquired an unhappy significance in Jewish history when in July 1487 he appointed two cardinals to head the Inquisition against the Jews in Spain. In Rome he also harassed the Marranos, imprisoning eight of them on July 18, 1487. Among the physicians who attended Innocent on his deathbed was a Jew who tried, unsuccessfully, to give a blood transfusion to the dying man.


INNOCENT II: Vogelstein-Rieger, 1 (1895), 221ff.; E. Amann, in: Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, 7 pt. 2 (1930), 1950ff. INNOCENT III: Vogelstein-Rieger, 1 (1895), 228ff.; H. Tillmann, Papst Innocenz III (1954), 163f.; S. Grayzel, Church and Jews… (19662), 248ff. and passim. INNOCENT VII: Vogelstein-Rieger, 1 (1895), 237ff.; E. Amann, in: Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, 7 pt. 2 (1930), 1981ff.; S. Grayzel, Church and the Jews… (19662), 248ff. and passim. INNOCENT VIII: Vogelstein-Rieger, 1 (1895), 20ff.; E. Rodocanachi, Histoire de Rome… (1925), 86, 125; L. Pastor, History of the Popes, 5 (19505), 227–372; J.R. Marcus, Jew in the Medieval World (19602), 137–41.

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