On Good Friday a Vatican priest compared recent criticism of the Catholic church to anti-Semitism, drawing ire from Jewish groups and advocates for victims of sexual abuse. Just like the “collective violence” that the Jews have endured the church has come under attack, observed Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, supposedly quoting a letter from an unnamed Jewish friend. In front of an audience that included the pope, he continued: "'The use of stereotypes, the shifting of personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism.’"

The Vatican, which has come under fire recently for hiding and overlooking hundreds of incidences of pedophilia, was quick to write off the remarks, claiming that Cantalamessa’s speech was "not an official position of the Catholic Church." “I don’t think it’s an appropriate comparison,” said a Vatican spokesman. “That’s why the letter should be read as a letter of solidarity by a Jew.” Still, the Vatican’s official newspaper published the controversial excerpt from the priest’s speech today and last night on its website, reports the Times.

Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League decried the remark for its “sad and ironic” timing. "Good Friday is the day that, for hundreds of years, Jews hid in their basements because Jews were blamed by the Catholic Church for crucifying Christ," he told the Daily News. Meanwhile, an important advocate for victims of sexual abuse in the U.S. stressed the backwardness of the priest's thinking, calling it “breathtakingly callous and misguided,” considering the allegations against the church. “Men who deliberately and consistently hide child sex crime are in no way victims,” said David Clohessy. It's not the first time the Vatican has played victim: recently Archbishop Dolan accused the NY Times of biased reporting, concerning scrutiny of the Catholic faith.