"There's no pleasing some people": the new Good Friday Prayer for the Jews

(I have modified this from the original post yesterday which I did in a rush at the end of the day–sorry about the original mistakes).

Within the Jewish community (and it is very diverse) there are some who expressed concern about the “prayer for the Jews” in the Extraordinary form of the Good Friday liturgy which referred (among other things) to the “blindness” of the Jews in rejecting Christ. There was a signficant lobby, both within the Jewish community and among some Catholics involved in Interfaith dialogue, to have the text altered.

Well, one would think that they might be happy with today’s news that the Pope has officially ammended the text. It now reads:

Oremus et pro Iudaeis. Ut Deus et Dominus noster illuminet corda eorum, ut agnoscant Iesum Christum salvatorem omnium hominum.
Flectamus genua.
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui vis ut omnes homines salvi fiant et ad agnitionem veritatis veniant, concede propitius, ut plenitudine gentium in Ecclesiam Tuam intrante omnis Israel salvus fiat. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

As the news report says, this prayer would be used only in the Latin language, in the extraordinary form of the Latin liturgy. CWN offers its own translation, but here (a little more reliably) is Fr Zuhldorf’s version:

Let us also pray for the Jews: that God our Lord might enlighten their hearts, so that they might know Jesus Christ as the Savior of all mankind.
Let us pray.
Let us bend our knees (kneel).
Please rise.
Almighty and eternal God, whose desire it is that all men might be saved and come to the knowledge of truth, grant in your mercy that as the fullness of mankind enters into your Church, all Israel may be saved, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

I wonder if that will make them happy? Does it not rather suggest (as in fact is the case) that salvation comes to humanity as a whole (“the fullness of mankind” including “Israel”) when humanity as a whole a) “know[s] Jesus Christ as the Saviour of all mankind” and b) “enters into [God’s] Church”.

Fr Z notes that the CDF did not get to look at the prayer before it was issued. I don’t think that will worry them, since in all respects, this new prayer perfectly reflects the CDF’s great trio of documents, “Dominus Iesus” (2000), “Responses to Some Questions regarding certain aspects of the Doctrine of the Church” (June 2007), and “Doctrinal Note on some aspects of Evangelisation” (14 December 2007). (For a complete reflection by Fr Z, see here–his point that the new prayer still has the same scriptural reference as the old one is significant).

I’m happy with the new prayer. But then I am neither a Jew nor a devotee of the extraordinary form of the liturgy. In other words, it still will be offensive to those who wish to take offence.

One example is the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations , who released this press statement yesterday:


Vatican’s Jewish Partners Express Deep Regret over Latin Liturgy

NEW YORK, NY, February 5, 2008 — The International Jewish Committee for interreligious Consultations expressed its deep regret and disappointment that the new text of the Prayer for the Jews in the Catholic Church’s Latin rite, prays for the salvation of the Jews exclusively through the acceptance of Christian Faith.

“We had hoped that the prayer in the Latin rite would be the same as that of the universal Catholic liturgy in use since 1970,” declared Rabbi David Rosen, Chair of IJCIC. He added, “This new version for the Latin rite appears to be a regression from the path advanced by the declaration of the second Vatican Council. We urge the Catholic Church to deepen its exploration of the full implications of Nostra Aetate’s affirmation of the eternal validity of God’s Divine Covenant with the Jewish People.”

As the ex-leper said to Brian, “There’s no pleasing some people”.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to "There's no pleasing some people": the new Good Friday Prayer for the Jews

  1. Peregrinus says:

    I haven’t studied the timeline, but I would have thought that the statement from the IJCIC is a response to the newly-amended text., rather than something which came before the new text, as you seem to suggest.

    What strikes me about the new Extraordinary Form text is: this is not a prayer in which a Jew can join. No Jew can remain a faithful Jew while acknowledging Jesus Christ as the saviour of all mankind, or while praying that Israel should be saved by entering into the church of Jesus Christ.

    Of course, from the standpoint of interreligious dialogue, there is no case for saying that the Catholic church should adopt prayers which Jews can pray, any more than there is for saying that Jews should adopt prayers which Christians can pray. The Catholic church is a missionary church; it does preach the gospel to the whole world. It does invite all to faith and to baptism. To ask the church not to do this is to ask it to cease to be the Catholic church. And the problematic language of perfidy and blindness has been removed.

    On the other hand, we must accept that praying for their conversion does have a dimension for Jews that it might not have for other faith-communities. Jews tend to see proselytism as inherently anti-Semitic. They see calls for their conversion as an assault on their national and communal survival, and we must concede (a) that history have given them plenty of reasons for being sensitive to such an assault, and (b) that Christians have played their part in creating that sensitivity.

    I must confess that my starting point is this; why could not the Extraordinary Form have been amended by the adoption of the Prayer for the Jews employed in the Ordinary Form?

    At least a part of the stated reason for last year’s Motu Proprio was to break a perceived link between those who favoured the Extraordinary Form and those who questioned or rejected the authority or teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The Ordinary Form prayer is, of course, very much the product of, and a reflection of, Vatican II teaching on attitudes to other religions. As a matter of principle, therefore, should not the Ordinary Form version of this prayer be perfectly acceptable in this context? If there is a stylistic or formal problem, could not the revised prayer be based on the Ordinary Form prayer?

    I am bothered also by this statement of yours: “Does it not rather suggest (as in fact is the case) that all mankind can only be saved a) through knowing Jesus as the Saviour of all mankind and b) by coming into the Church?”.

    This is not, with respect, the teaching of the Catholic church. Baptism and faith in Christ is the only way to Salvation that we know of. That is, we cannot offer any other way of salvation. At the same time, “those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation” (Lumen Gentium 18). It is simply not the case the church teaches that Jews – or other non-Christians – can be saved only by developing a Christian faith and being baptised.

  2. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf o{]:¬) says:

    What you wrote: “Fr Z worries that the CDF did not get to look at the prayer before it was issued.”

    What I actually wrote: “I am informed also that the CDF did not see this text before its release.”

    I cannot fathom how you extracted that I was in any way “worried” that the text did not go from the Pope to the CDF.

  3. Schütz says:

    Oh dear, Oh dear, I do seem to have got everthing wrong haven’t I? Yes, I did mis-read the IJCIC text, Peregrinus. As you see, I have altered my post so that it makes more sense and is more true to everyone–you too, Fr Z–I meant no offence. I simply noted your note and thought you noted it because you were concerned about this.

  4. Mike says:

    Well I like the “new old” text. It does seem to do away with the negative language, while still acknowledging that we indeed should pray for the actual acceptance of Jesus Christ as Saviour by everyone. That some people may be saved despite not having an explicit faith in Christ doesn’t change that.

    I am quite sure that most people who go to Tridentine Masses would not be satisfied at all with the current Ordinary Form version of the text. It *seems* to avoid the whole idea of the necessity of conversion to Christ.

    I know that many Jews will still be upset at this very point, but I think it’s important that we continue to preach it. Certainly because it’s part of our Faith, but also because you have to hold up both ends of the see-saw if you want to show people of other faiths that evangelism and prayer for conversion is not always the same as agressive proselytism.

    In support of this, note the rabbi’s misunderstanding – that this new prayer is ” a regression from the path advanced by the declaration of the second Vatican Council”. Well, that’s not true at all, and such misunderstandings won’t help interreligious efforts.

  5. Schütz says:

    Quite right, Mike, and the what else the new prayer shows us is that with regard to soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) Papa Benny and Levada’s CDF are towing exactly the same line in the hermeneutic of Vatican II. That soteriology wobbled a bit with certain reactions to the Vatican II statements (reflected in the Novus Ordo prayers for Good Friday) but seems to be coming “back on line” again. This isn’t to deny the doctrine of the NO prayers, it simply places them in a firm context of the Church’s continual witness.

  6. Rob says:

    Frankly, I don’t see why he bothered to change the language. I use a 1962 missal, and it simply says “remove the veil from their hearts”. Now, we say “enlighten their hearts”. Is the former really supposed to be “negative” language? Anyone that is hurt by that needs to toughen up.

  7. Schütz says:

    The new prayer is the same theology (its based on the same text, as Fr Z points out) but does not use any language like “perfidious”/”faithless” or “blind” which might be liable to be interpreted in an anti-semitic way. The new prayer might not be to the liking of some Jews (or indeed any Jew), but you have to twist the words if you want to try to interpret them in an anti-semitic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *