- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Catholic Good Friday prayer from the pre-Vatican II Tridentine Mass will no longer ask that God “remove the veil from the hearts” of Jews, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said yesterday.

It will also drop an allusion to Jewish “blindness” and forgo a passage asking that Jews “be delivered from their darkness.” A new prayer, released Monday by the Vatican, still asks that Jews “acknowledge Jesus Christ.”

The Rev. James Massa, executive director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said Pope Benedict XVI made the changes over Jewish concerns on anti-Semitism. “What is important is that he’s chosen to omit any language that’s been associated with negative images of Jews,” he said.

But the top U.S. Jewish groups were not mollified.

“While we appreciate that the text avoids any derogatory language toward Jews, it’s regretful that the prayer explicitly calls for Jews to accept Christianity,” said Rabbi David Rosen, international director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee.

“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,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

Father Massa said the overwhelming majority of Catholics will not hear this new prayer because only communities or parishes that exclusively celebrate the Tridentine Mass can use it in the three days leading up to Easter. Parishes with an occasional Traditional Latin Mass will use either Good Friday prayer.

The revised prayer reads: “Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may enlighten their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Savior of all men. … Almighty and eternal God, who wants that all men be saved and attain the knowledge of the truth, propitiously grant that as the fullness of the Gentiles enters Thy Church, all Israel be saved.”

The former (1962) prayer reads: “Let us pray also for the Jews: that almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord. … Almighty and eternal God, who dost also not exclude from thy mercy the Jews: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness.”

Most Catholics use a prayer from the 1970 Novus Ordo rite that only asks that Jews “continue to grow in the love of His name and in faithfulness to His covenant … [and] arrive at the fullness of redemption.”

The Latin prayer had not been an issue until July 7, when Benedict removed restrictions on the 1962 Latin rite. Israel’s chief rabbis and the American Jewish Committee began pressuring the Vatican to change the wording.

Gunther Lawrence, the Jewish executive director of the Interreligious Information Center, said that “if you’re going to nitpick on the specific language of New Testament prayers about Catholic-Jewish relations, you’ll always find something that disturbs you,” adding that he was confident that Catholics would not be “turning this into anti-Semitism.”

Ken Wolfe, a member of St. Mary Mother of God Church in the District, which has a weekly Tridentine Mass, said “nobody’s going to be happy” with the prayer. “It doesn’t satisfy the criticism by the Jews, and it angers traditionalists because it implies there was a problem with the original prayer,” he said.

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