Susan Sarandon, more noteworthy for her social activism than her Academy Award, referred to the Pope as a Nazi at the Hamptons Film Festival on Saturday, Newsday reported, drawing intense criticism from both Catholic and Jewish advocacy groups.
Sarandon made the comment during a discussion of her Academy Award-winning performance in the 1995 anti-death penalty film “Dead Man Walking,” based on a non-fiction book by a leading death-penalty opponent.
In an interview with actor Bob Balaban, Sarandon said she sent a copy of the book to the Pope — by which she meant Pope John Paul II. “The last one,” she said. “Not this Nazi one we have now.”
Pope Benedict, born Joseph Ratzinger, was raised in Germany, conscripted into the Hitler Youth at the age of 14, and later drafted into the German military. Ratzinger deserted the army weeks before the Germans surrendered, and spent time in a prisoner of war camp.
Pope Benedict maintains that as devout Catholics, his family always rejected the Nazi ideology.
Sarandon, also raised Catholic, is well known for her social activism on AIDS, hunger programs, opposition to military action abroad.
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights called Sarandon’s comment “obscene,” and said that “her ignorance is willful,” Reuters reported.
The Anti-Defamation League has asked the actress to apologize — to the Catholic Community, not to Jews.
“Ms. Sarandon may have her differences with the Catholic Church, but that is no excuse for throwing around Nazi analogies. Such words are hateful, vindictive and only serve to diminish the true history and meaning of the Holocaust,” the organization said in a statement.