Church of England to apologise for medieval expulsion of Jews

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Church of England to apologise for medieval expulsion of Jews

Bishops confirm that an 'act of repentance' is being planned to atone for antisemitic church laws which led to the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby with his friend, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.

Credit: Blake Ezra Photography
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby with his friend, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. Credit: Blake Ezra Photography

The Church of England is set to apologise for the medieval expulsion of Jews directly for the first time in an “act of repentance.”

Bishops confirmed yesterday that the Church plans a repentance service for its antisemitism in medieval times. 

Among the antisemitic acts being apologised for include forcing Jews to wear a “badge of shame”, and the Church’s role in first nation-wide expulsion of Jews in 1290.

The plan was revealed in written questions to the General Synod, the Church’s legislative body. 

In response to questions, the Bishop of Lichfield, Michael Ipgrave confirmed that the office of Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, had received a proposal for a repentance service.

“We are exploring the idea of such a service to be planned in conjunction with the Council of Christians and Jews, as well as the potential for a liturgical resource that might be offered to local churches to model an appropriate symbolic repentance,” he said. 

The move comes as the 800th anniversary of the 1222 Oxford Synod approaches next year, which introduced notorious antisemitic laws, including forcing Jews to wear clothing to distinguish them from Christians.

The move has been welcomed by David Rich, of Community Security Trust, who labelled the apology a case of “better late than never.”

“The historic trauma of medieval English antisemitism 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,” he told media.

“But at a time of rising antisemitism, 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.”

The Church has previously addressed its antisemitic history in a 2019 report, called ‘God’s Unfailing Word.’ 

The report urged remorse over the role of Christians in centuries of antisemitism and called on Christians to “repent” for past sins and challenge attitudes that provided a “fertile seed-bed for murderous antisemitism”, contributing to the Holocaust.

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