Archbishop Kevin McDonald

Pope Francis. (AP/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis. (AP/Andrew Medichini)

Seeking to improve Catholic-Jewish relations, bishops want the Vatican to revert to another version of the Good Friday prayer which is less offensive to Jews. 

The bishops of England and Wales have appealed to the Vatican to change the Good Friday prayer for Jews which calls for their conversion, the British Catholic Herald reported Tuesday.

The currently recited text prayer reads: “Let us also pray for the Jews: that our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Saviour of all men.”

This prayer text was introduced by Benedict XVI in 2008, a revision of the millennia old text. Previously, the prayer had included references to the “blindness” of Jewish people and their “immersion in darkness.”

However, the version of the prayer currently recited remains different from the version introduced after the Second Vatican Council in 1970, which reads: “Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant.”

Archbishop Kevin McDonald, chairman of the bishops’ Committee for Catholic-Jewish Relations, said the difference in the prayer versions had caused “great confusion and upset in the Jewish community,”

“The 1970 prayer which is now used throughout the Church is basically a prayer that the Jewish people would continue to grow in the love of God’s name and in faithfulness of his covenant, a Covenant which – as St John Paul II made clear in 1980 – has not been revoked. By contrast the prayer produced in 2008 for use in the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy reverted to being a prayer for the conversion of Jews to Christianity,” the Catholic Herald quoted Archbishop McDonald as saying.

He said the English and Welsh bishops had “added their voice” to that of the German bishops, who had already asked for the prayer to be amended.

“Such a change would be important both for giving clarity and consistency to Catholic teaching and for helping to progress Catholic-Jewish dialogue,” Archbishop McDonald explained.

Some Catholic authorities have voiced opposition to changing the currently used version, despite the benefit such a change may have to Catholic-Jewish relations.

Joseph Shaw, president of the Latin Mass Society, opposed changing the version, saying it reflects Christian theology. “It is surprising that the bishops are unhappy with a prayer composed by Pope Benedict as recently as 2008, which, like the prayer it replaced, though in more measured language, reflects the theology and imagery of 2 Corinthians 3:13-16.”

Blogger Father John Hunwicke said he hoped the bishops would clarify “what exactly it is in the prayer which contradicts which precise affirmations of [Vatican II document] Nostra Aetate.”

Following the issuance of the 2008 version, the New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) noted that it welcomed the removal of references to the “blindness of the Jewish people” and their “immersion from darkness,” but said the new version still represented backtracking on prior progress in references to the Jews.

By: United with Israel Staff

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