Pope’s prayer change disappoints Jews, some traditionalist Catholics
Pope Benedict’s decision to change a Latin prayer for Jews at Good Friday services has disappointed Jews who wanted more change. It has also left some traditionalist Catholics uneasy, because many wanted no change. Both groups were expecting the decision, because Good Friday is coming soon (March 21) and it will be the first Good Friday since the Pope authorised wider use of the old Latin missal. That missal speaks of the “blindness” of the Jews and asks God to “remove the veil from their hearts.” The new wording says “Let us also pray for the Jews. So that God our Lord enlightens their hearts so that they recognize Jesus Christ savior of all men.” It also asks God that “all Israel be saved.”
Reactions are still coming in but here are a few from both sides.
American Jewish Committee international director of interreligious affairs, Rabbi David Rosen: “While we appreciate that the text avoids any derogatory language towards Jews, its regretful that the prayer explicitly calls for Jews to accept Christianity. This differs greatly from the text in the current universal liturgy that prays for the salvation of the Jews in general terms. We hope that through further dialogue, the full implications of the Second Vatican Council’s affirmation of the Jewish covenant might lead to a deeper understanding of the value of the Torah as the vehicle of salvation for the Jewish people.”
Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman: “While we appreciate that some of the deprecatory language has been removed from a new version of the Good Friday prayer for the Conversion of Jews in the 1962 Roman Missal, we are deeply troubled and disappointed that the framework and intention to petition God for Jews to accept Jesus as Lord was kept intact. Alterations of language without change to the 1962 prayer’s conversionary intent amount to cosmetic revisions, while retaining the most troubling aspect for Jews, namely the desire to end the distinctive Jewish way of life. Still named the ‘Prayer for Conversion of the Jews,’ it is a major departure from the teachings and actions of Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and numerous authoritative Catholic documents, including Nostra Aetate.”
Jewish blogger Tzvee: “First the pope re-instituted the Tridentine Mass, in effect saying to us Jews, ‘We will insult you, just like in the olden times.’ Now the Holy Father has revised the insulting liturgy, in effect saying to us Jews, ‘We still want to convert you. However we will not insult you… as much.’ Alas I now must once again just pray that the Lord remove the blindness from the pope’s eyes and lift the veil from his heart — so that he can begin to respect us Jews and …accept the authenticity of our religion and our revelation and our redemption through our Torah.”
Rabbi Guiseppe Laras , president of the Assembly of Italian Rabbis: “What worries me is the second part of the prayer which retains the prayer for the recognition of Jesus by the Jews. I fear that will set back, if not block, the Jewish-Christian dialogue, since some parts of the Jewish world fear that the dialogue is actually intended to convert Jews to Christianity.”
Some initial reactions from traditionalist Catholics:
Father John Zuhlsdorf, traditionalist Catholic blogger: “Frankly, I don’t think many Jews will be pleased with the prayer. I don’t think many traditionalists will either.”
Rome’s Outpost blog: “What I will say of it, with all due respect and love towards our good and Supreme Pontiff, is that it is not as good a prayer as the original …But His Holiness is a wiser man than I.”
The Remnant, a traditionalist U.S. Catholic newspaper: “There is only one thing we need to know about the revised prayer in order to assess whether it is good or bad for the cause of the Gospel: Abe Foxman hates it. He really hates it …Foxman and his collaborators did not get what they were clamoring for: a formal abandonment of the necessity of Jewish conversion to Christ. What they got instead is a reformulation of the Good Friday prayer that takes away their issue while petitioning for Jewish conversion in a way that is, if anything, even more objectionable from their standpoint.”
New Liturgical Movement blog quotes British theologian Dr. Alcuin Reid: “Whilst the Holy Father has decided that phrases in the previous prayer are to be changed – and we are free to agree or not with his thinking on this – the change is not a substantial change to the Sacred Liturgy as handed on in tradition, nor is it in radical theological discontinuity with what has gone before. Indeed, it reasserts Catholic doctrine (perhaps rather cleverly) when some, if not many, would have had it denied by insisting that it is inappropriate in the modern day to pray for the conversion of the Jews at all. The Pope has rejected such a stance as inimical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, yesterday, today, and forever.”
(NB: Not all Catholics are dissatisfied — most will not attend Good Friday services where this prayer is said anyway. Several Catholic media have reported the change without comment. Domradio, the radio of the archdiocese of Cologne in Germany, was quite positive: “Signs of reconciliation – the Pope changes the controversial Good Friday prayer for the Jews.”)
Question: Evangelisation is an essential part of Christianity. It would have been difficult to imagine Pope Benedict scrapping it. Do you think he went far enough in changing the old Latin prayer to reflect today’s relations between Christians and Jews?