The Church of England has revealed plans to apologize, for the first time since it was established in 1534, for the 1222 expulsion of Jews from medieval England.
On July 12, after a meeting of the Church’s legislative body, the General Synod, Anglican leaders announced that the Church would offer an “act of repentance” for historic incidents of anti-Semitism predating the formation of the Church of England.
The formal apology, scheduled for 2022, will coincide with the 800th anniversary of the passage of anti-Semitic decrees by the Church’s Synod of Oxford in 1222, which resulted in the introduction of discriminatory laws requiring Jews to wear badges and preventing them from holding certain jobs.
The laws eventually led to the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290—a policy that remained in place until 1656 when Jews were officially allowed entry and residence in England once again.
Jewish groups welcomed the proposed apology. “The phrase ‘better late than never’ is truly appropriate here,” said Dave Rich, policy director of Community Security Trust, a British anti-Semitism watchdog group. “The historic trauma of medieval English anti-Semitism can never be erased and its legacy survives today—for example, through the persistence of the ‘blood libel’ allegation that was invented in this country,” referring to a centuries-old canard that Jews murder Christians, especially children, to use their blood in religious rituals. “But at a time of rising anti-Semitism, the support and empathy of the Church of England for our Jewish community is most welcome as a reminder that the Britain of today is a very different place,” said Rich.
The Church of England, the state church and largest religious institution in the United Kingdom, did not exist for several centuries after the 1290 law that led to the expulsion of the Jews. But it evolved from that church, and church leaders decided to apologize to the nation’s oldest ethnic minority for the institution’s historical role in stoking anti-Semitism.
“In 2019, the Church of England published God’s Unfailing Word, which included a historic expression of repentance for the Christian church’s participation and collusion in over a thousand years of anti-Judaic thinking and practice in England,” said the Rt. Rev. Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield and chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews. The Church is also exploring the idea of holding a symbolic service on the anniversary of the 1222 Synod of Oxford whose decree Ipgrave describes as “the Magna Carta of English canon law, which implemented some of the most egregious anti-Semitic decrees.”
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