WASHINGTON | John Hagee, an influential Texas televangelist who endorsed Sen. John McCain, apologized to Catholics on Tuesday.
Hagee backed off his stinging criticism of the Roman Catholic Church and for having “emphasized the darkest chapters in the history of Catholic and Protestant relations with the Jews.”
Hagee leads a megachurch with a congregation in the tens of thousands and has an even wider television audience.
His support for McCain has drawn cries of outrage from some Catholic leaders who have called on McCain to reject the endorsement. McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, has said he does not agree with some of Hagee’s comments, but did not reject his support.
In a letter to the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, Hagee wrote: “… I want to express my deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful.”
Hagee’s apology was accepted.
The controversy had threatened to pursue McCain throughout the campaign, potentially hurting his standing with Catholic voters.
A narrow majority of Roman Catholics voted for President Bush in 2004 and for Al Gore in 2000, critical votes in close elections.
The letter came after Hagee met with 22 influential religious activists, virtually all of them Catholics.
Hagee has cited the Inquisition and the Crusades as evidence of anti-Semitism within the Catholic church and has suggested that Catholic anti-Semitism shaped Adolf Hitler’s views of Jews.
“In my zeal to oppose anti-Semitism and bigotry in all its ugly forms, I have often emphasized the darkest chapters in the history of Catholics and Protestant relations with the Jews,” Hagee wrote. “In the process, I may have contributed to the mistaken impression that the anti-Jewish violence of the Crusades and the Inquisition defines the Catholic Church. It most certainly does not.”
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