FaithWorld

“Lefebvrists” say Vatican caved on Good Friday prayer

A missal (prayer book) for mass in Latin, 25 July 2007/Alessandro BianchiEver since Pope Benedict allowed wider use of the old Latin mass last year, we’ve been watching to see whether the schismatic traditionalists in the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) would soften their staunchly critical line towards the Vatican. They have stuck for decades to the centuries-old Tridentine mass in Latin and rejected all the modernising reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Benedict has long been concerned with bringing them back into the Roman fold and lifting most restrictions on the old Latin mass was partly a step in their direction. But that didn’t stop the “Lefebvrists” (from the name of their first leader, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre) from denouncing the Vatican for updating the Latin version of a Good Friday prayer about the Jews.

In a weekend statement for its French-language news service, the SSPX said: “Following foreign pressures on the Catholic Church, the pope has felt obliged to change the very venerable Prayer for the Jews, which is an integral part of the Good Friday liturgy. This prayer is one of the oldest and goes back to about the third century. It has thus been recited throughout the whole history of the Church as the full expression of Catholic faith.

SSPX Bishop Bernard Fellay, 13 Jan. 2006/Franck PrevelThe SPPX said the change, which it called an “amputation,” had “the allure of a real transformation, expressing the new theology of relations with the Jewish people. It is part of the liturgical upheaval that is the characteristic mark of the council and the reforms that followed it. While the necessity to accept the Messiah to be saved has been retained, one can only profoundly deplore this change.”

This isn’t really a surprise. The SPPX has always said it opposed not only mass in vernacular languages, but the other reforms as well. That, for example, included the positive reappraisal of Judaism. The Vatican has long insisted the SSPX must accept those reforms if it wants to return to the Catholic Church. While the new Latin prayer disappointed many Jews, who protested that it still called for their conversion, the fact it dropped some of the more offensive passages about their supposed “blindness” was a nod towards Vat II.

This persistent opposition despite the increasingly traditional line in the Vatican raises the question why the traditionalists following the excommunicated bishops of the SSPX should stay with them rather than drift back to Tridentine masses celebrated with Rome’s approval. The Latin mass seems to be more important to the traditionalists in the pews than these other disputes the SSPX leaders have with the Vatican.

Pope’s prayer change disappoints Jews, some traditionalist Catholics

Pope Benedict with Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yona Metzger in Castelgandolfo, Italy, 15 Sept. 2005/poolPope 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.

Some initial reactions from Jewish groups and blogs:

Jews read the Torah in a Moscow synagogue, 12 Jan. 2006/Alexander NatruskinAmerican 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.”