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Penitent members of a Spanish Catholic fraternity participate in a three hour silent march during Holy Week. Their hoods derive from those worn by men who led prisoners to execution during the Spanish Inquisition.I

The first expulsion:
Many people don't realize that very serious persecution began in Spain in the year 613 CE. Jews were given the options of either leaving Spain or converting to Christianity. Jewish children over 6 years of age were taken from their parents and given a Christian education


The Spanish Inquisition Really Did Occur!
In 1478 when, at the request of the Spanish sovereigns Ferdinand and Isabella, Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84) issued a papal bull allowing for the creation of the Spanish Inquisition. It lasted until it was "abolished" in 1834, although its most fervent activity was during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Spanish Inquisition is the notorious for three reasons. First, it was more cruel precisely because it was administered by the secular government. Second, it was concerned, in large part, with the conversos. These were Jews who had converted either under duress or out of social convenience, and were suspected of secretly practicing the Jewish faith.

Using the Spanish Inquisition to Attack Jews
In their search for incriminating evidence against the Jews, the authors even enlist the support of the Spanish Inquisition. "More than once, Jews were accused not just of being Jews but for slave dealing and sometimes for that alone. The Inquisitors charged subjects for either crime and frequently Jews were found guilty on both counts. Slave dealing and slavery and its connection with Judaism and Jews was offensive to the Spanish reformers." The Spanish Inquisition brought about "a reign of terror throughout Europe" which was responsible for the impoverishment, exile, and death of countless Jews, Muslims, and "heretical" Christians. Jews were singled out for persecution because of their identity as Jews. Concepts of an inquisition and inquisitorial procedure lie deep in the roots of world history. Inquisitions were used during the decline of the Roman Empire until the Spanish Inquisition's decline in the 19th century. The Inquisitions in both Spain and Portugal were run by both civil and church authorities in order to root out non-believers from a nation or religion.

Summary of the Inquisition

The Spanish Inquisition was used for both political and religious reasons. Spain is a nation-state that was born out of religious struggle between numerous different belief systems. Following the Crusades and the Reconquest of Spain by the Christian Spaniards the leaders of Spain needed a way to unify the country into a strong nation.

Ferdinand and Isabella chose Catholicism to unite Spain and in 1478 asked permission of the pope to begin the Spanish Inquisition to purify the people of Spain. They began by driving out Jews and other non-believers. In 1483 Tomas de Torquemada became the inquisitor-general for most of Spain. He was responsible for establishing the rules of inquisitorial procedure and creating branches of the Inquisition in various cities. He remained the leader of the Spanish Inquisition for fifteen years and was responsible for the execution of thousands of Spaniards.

The Inquisition was run procedurally by the inquisitor-general who established local tribunals of the Inquisition. Accused heretics were identified by the general population and brought before the tribunal. The were given a chance to confess their heresy against the Catholic Church and were also encouraged to indict other heretics. If they admitted their wrongs and turned in other aggressors against the church they were either released or sentenced to a prison penalty. If they would not admit their heresy or indict others the accused were publicly introduced in a large ceremony before they were publicly killed or sentenced to a life in prison.

The Spanish Inquisition's reign of terror was abolished by King Bonaparte in 1834, but it wasn't until January of 1968 when the files of the Office of the Inquisition at the Vatican were closed.

To simply say that Catholics have sinned is to sidestep the most important aspect of these sins. What remains important about the Inquisition (and the forceable conversions of native peoples in the New World) is the involvement of the church's authority with these sins.

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"In the torturous dungeons of the Inquisition, while awaiting the hangman's noose, when cramped in cattle cars bound for Auschwitz, Treblinka or Maidanek, and in the heat of battle defending our State, Jews have longed for and prayed toward this holy place."
Minister Melchior's Speech to Pope John Paul II at the Western Wall Jerusalem, March 26, 2000