Anti-Semitism Complaints Suspend Priest's Beatification

The Vatican (search) has put the planned beatification of a French priest on hold after complaints emerged about anti-Semitism in his writings, an official said Friday.

The Rev. Leon Dehon (search), who founded the priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus religious order, had been approved for beatification in a ceremony in St. Peter's Square on April 24. That ceremony was postponed because of the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI, who was formally installed as pope on April 24.

But there have been complaints Dehon's writings are anti-Semitic, according to reports in the French media.

The French Catholic newspaper La Croix reported that a French historian, Jean-Dominique Durand, had alerted the French bishops conference in February that some of Dehon's writings were anti-Semitic. The newspaper quoted his writings as saying Jews were "united in their hatred of Jesus" and were enemies of Christians (search).

The newspaper said Dehon had written that the Jewish holy book, the Talmud, was the "manual of the bandit, of the corruptor, of the social destroyer." It quoted him as writing that anti-Semitism was a "sign of hope."

Dehon lived from 1843-1925. According to his biography, which remains on the Vatican Web site, he was ordained a priest in 1868 and founded the priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1877 after visiting the Italian shrine of Loreto.

The newspaper quoted the superior of Dehon's order in Paris, identified only as Rev. Joseph, as saying Dehon's writings must be taken in context with the times in which he lived. "Father Dehon was a man full of love," it quoted him as saying.