The highest ranking Australian Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, has apologized for comments he made during a televised debate with Richard Dawkins. During the debate he referred to Jews as "little people" who were "intellectually and morally inferior."
Cardinal Pell made the comment during a heated debate with Dawkins on religion and evolution.
According to The Telegraph, Cardinal Pell said on ABC television: "I've got a great admiration for the Jews but we don't need to exaggerate their contribution in their early days. They weren't intellectually the equal of [the Egyptians or Persians] – intellectually, morally...The poor – the little Jewish people, they were originally shepherds. They were stuck. They're still stuck between these great powers."
The Telegraph reports that Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, also appeared to suggest that the Germans had suffered more than the Jews during the Holocaust. According to Daily Mail, he said why God permitted the Holocaust is a "terrible mystery," as much as why God allowed the Germans to be punished. The Cardinal argued: "He (God) helped probably through secondary causes for the Jews to escape and continue. It is interesting through these secondary causes probably no people in history have been punished the way the Germans were. It is a terrible mystery." The debate host, taking note of Pell's argument, responded, saying he thought that the Jews had suffered more than the Germans. Pell replied: "Yes, that might be right. Certainly the suffering in both, I mean the Jews, there was no reason why they should suffer."
According to Daily Mail, the Cardinal's remarks were criticized by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry which said it was seriously concerned about them. The Australian Jewish News also condemned Pell in a front page publication with the headline "Clerical Error." The editor of the paper, Zeddy Lawrence, said they received several letters from Jewish readers who were offended and upset by the Cardinal's remarks. Lawrence said: "It doesn't seem he was thinking clearly, but many people also said he is a good friend to the community."
Cardinal Pell later issued a statement clarifying his comments. He said it was not his intention to offend the Jewish community: "Historically or culturally unequal might have been more appropriate than intellectually. My commitment to friendship with the Jewish community, and my esteem for the Jewish faith is a matter of public record, and the last thing I would want to do is give offense to either. This was certainly not my intention, and I am sorry that these points which I tried to make...did not come out as I would have preferred in the course of the discussion."
The Telegraph reports views about the debate were mixed, with many saying the debate was futile.
Cardinal Pell was declared winner of the debate, a decision which Daily Mail reports, baffled many viewers.