In 2002, a group of scholars under a committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a document together with some Jewish scholars called “Reflections on Covenant and Mission”. Last year, the USCCB issued its own statement “A note on ambiguities contained in Reflections on Covenant and Mission“. Covenant and Mission had suggested that since Christ gave his command to “Go and make disciples” in reference to the “nations” (explicated in the text of that document as “Greek = ethn?, the cognate of the Hebrew = goyim; i.e., the nations other than Israel”), the Church should not engage in outreach to Jews seeking their conversion and baptism.
Complicating the issue since the release of “Covenant and Mission” was the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificam”, which revived the 1962 Missal, including the prayer for the conversion of the Jews in the rites of Good Friday. You all remember this.
Well, as well as the comment about condoms in the new book “Light of the World” (which, by the way, Ignatius Press won’t sell to anyone in Australia because of legal distribution restrictions – you have to talk to the Central Catholic Bookshop for this one), he made the following comment about these issues:
A change also seemed necessary to me in the ancient liturgy. In fact, the formula was such as to truly wound the Jews, and it certainly did not express in a positive way the great, profound unity between Old and New Testament. For this reason, I thought that a modification was necessary in the ancient liturgy, in particular in reference to our relationship with our Jewish friends. I modified it in such a way that it contained our faith, that Christ is salvation for all. That there do not exist two ways of salvation, and that therefore Christ is also the savior of the Jews, and not only of the pagans. But also in such a way that one did not pray directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense, but that the Lord might hasten the historic hour in which we will all be united. For this reason, the arguments used polemically against me by a series of theologians are rash, and do not do justice to what was done.
Of course, this book is not magisterial teaching. As the Pope wrote in the preface to “Jesus of Nazareth”, “Everyone is free to contradict me.” But on this issue, I don’t think we will.
What I do find interesting is that the Pope rules out prayer “for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense“. What does he mean by this? Any ideas?