A. The Concerns
1. The Motu Proprio of July 7, 2007, establishes that the single Roman liturgical rite exists in two forms: the “extraordinary form” (following the Missal of Blessed John XXIII issued in 1962) and the “ordinary form” following the Missal of Paul VI (issued by John Paul II in 2002).
2. It is an ancient custom of the Church to pray for the Jewish people at the celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday.
In the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, this prayer reads:
Oremus et pro Iudæis, ut, ad quos prius locutus est Dominus Deus noster, eis tribuat in sui nominis amore et in sui fœderis fidelitate proficere.
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui promissiones tuas Abrahæ eiusque semini contulisti, Ecclesiæ tuæ preces clementer exaudi, ut populus acquisitionis prioris ad redemptionis mereatur plenitudinem pervenire. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
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.
Almighty and eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. Listen to your Church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The extraordinary form contains the following prayer from the liturgy for the celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday:
Oremus et pro Judæis: ut Deus et Dominus noster auferat velamen de cordibus eorum; ut et ipsi agnoscant Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum.
Oremus. Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui Judæos etiam a tua misericordia non repellis: exaudi preces nostras, quas pro illius populi obcæcatione deferimus; ut, agnita veritatis tuæ luce, quæ Christus est, a suis tenebris eruantur. Per eumdem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.
Let us pray also for the Jews that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, you do not refuse your mercy even to the Jews; hear the prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of your truth, which is Christ, and be delivered from their darkness. Through the same Jesus Christ, your son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen
This prayer draws heavily on imagery from St Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians, chapters 3 and 4. The invocation for God to “take the veil from their hearts” is from 2 Cor 3:15, while later images of “blindness” and “light” are drawn from 2 Cor 4:3-6.
3. In 1570 Missal of St Pius V, the prayer for the Jews was introduced with the words “Oremus et pro perfidis Judaeis”. On the first Good Friday after his election to the papacy in 1959, Pope John XXIII eliminated the adjective “perfidis” from the prayer. The prayer for the conversion of the Jews in the extraordinary form (following the 1962 Missal of Blessed John XXIII) does not contain the word “perfidis”.
4. Some Jewish groups have reacted to reports about the Motu Proprio with disquiet. Two examples are as follows:
We are extremely disappointed and deeply offended that nearly 40 years after the Vatican rightly removed insulting anti-Jewish language from the Good Friday liturgy, that it would now permit Catholics to utter such hurtful and insulting words by praying for Jews to be converted. This is a theological setback in the religious life of Catholics and a body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations. It is the wrong decision at the wrong time.” (Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League)
The Wiesenthal Center and other Jewish groups expressed concern that a 1962 Good Friday Latin Mass, predating Vatican II, includes prayers “even” for the Jews who live with a “veil of blindness,” and for their conversion, as well as one for the “heathens,” i.e. Muslims. “These words, taken alone could be seen as stepping back from the current Good Friday Mass which underscores the eternity “of the promise to Abraham and his posterity,” he concluded. (Press release from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre)
5. Some Catholics involved in dialogue and relationships with Jews may share these concerns. Although the 1962 Missal of Blessed John XXIII was the form of the rite used exclusively until 1970, it was not altered to take into account the 1965 decree of the Second Vatican Council Nostra Aetate which addressed the relationship of the Church to the Jewish people. Furthermore, the Catholic-Jewish dialogue has progressed considerably since 1962 and that the extraordinary form does not take this into account. As a result of this progress in dialogue and understanding, some Catholic theologians have come to the conclusion that it is “no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church” to pray for the conversion of the Jewish people (cf. Reflections on Covenant and Mission. Nb. Note the significant critique of this point of view by Cardinal Avery Dulles).
B. Some Factors Affecting The Assessment Of The Concerns
1. This is the only prayer regarding the Jewish people in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite. It occurs only in this one celebration which may be used only once a year on Good Friday. This is relevant for two reasons:
a) The Motu Proprio explicitly restricts the use of the extraordinary form during the Sacred Triduum (of which the Good Friday liturgy forms a part) to those parishes where there exists a group who are “stable” in their adherance to it.
b) The celebration of the Lord’s Passion may be conducted only once on Good Friday, which does not allow both forms to be used in the same place. Unless a particular parish is dedicated to the sole use of the extraordinary form (in Australia there are about six such parishes), this will mean that the choice will always be in favour of the ordinary form.
2. The Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum does not introduce anything new to the Church. The form of the mass now known as the “extraordinary form” (which includes the prayer for the conversion of the Jews in the Good Friday liturgy) has been in continuous use even since 1970. Pope Benedict writes in his letter to the Bishops that “this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted.” It is now almost twenty years since Pope John Paul II provided explicit guidelines for its use in his Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei (2 July 1988).
3. Pope Benedict XVI emphasised that there are not two different Latin rites, but one rite in two forms. In his letter to the Bishops, he also emphasises that
“There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place. Needless to say, in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the n
ew books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness.”
This would appear to exclude a ‘hermeneutic of rupture’ and to affirm a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ whereby the faith of the Church is to be seen reflected in both forms of the Latin rite. One cannot hold the theology of one rite against the theology of the other. Apparent ‘contradictions’ between the lex orandi (law of prayer) and lex credendi (law of belief) will require hermeneutical reflection.
4. In his letter to the Bishops, the Holy Father invites Bishops to send in accounts of their experience over the next three years, saying that “If truly serious difficulties come to light, ways to remedy them can be sought.” Thus there are avenues for addressing the Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews if it is found to be causing “serious difficulties” for Catholic-Jewish relationships.
5. Until now, the “pre-Vatican II” form of the Latin rite has remained static in the form of the 1962 Missal. However, the Motu Proprio and its accompanying letter to Bishops explicity indicate that “the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching” and that consequently changes may be made to the extraordinary form in the future. At this point only very modest changes are indicated (eg. ” new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal.”) However, the “Ecclesia Dei” Commission has been asked to study the “practical possibilities in this regard”, and it is not inconceivable that the prayer for the conversion of the Jews may be also modified if it is found to be one of the “serious difficulties” reported to the Holy See. This would not have been possible without the current Motu Proprio.
6. The doctrine of the Church’s relationship with the Jewish people—including questions about the salvific effect of the Mosaic Covenant, the evangelisation of Jews, and prayer for the conversion of the Jewish people—is still undergoing a process of development and clarification. After two thousand years we are facing these questions in a new situation. The experience of the Shoah has awakened the Church to the deplorable history of anti-semitism in relation to which it has not been innocent. It will take much time, effort, prayer and charity for the parameters of our new relationship to be fully revealed. The language of prayer in both Church and Synagogue will be an important and significant part of of this understanding.