Thursday, February 7, 2008

Conversion of the Jews . . . ???

Much lately has been abuzz surrounding the so-called "Prayer for the Conversion of the Jews" found in the Tridentine Ritual for Good Friday. So much, that the Roman Pontiff has decided to "revise" the prayer, to be less offensive to the Jewish people. It was announced this week in a statement from Bishop Richard J. Sklba, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

Readers may recall that Pope Benedict XVI allowed a more liberal but conditional and extraordinary use of this rite as contained in the 1962 Roman Missal, in a decree last year. The 1970 Missal of Pope Paul VI (sometimes still known as the "new rite") is still to be considered the "ordinary" celebration of the Latin Rite.

My good friend, Gary Stern, religion writer and editor has addressed the issue in his column called "Blogging Religiously" this past week (and at other times). We must only wonder what this means for today's "inter-religious dialogue" and the move towards a global community at peace with itself?

Mr. Abe Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League expressed a hopeful but unsatisfied reaction to Benedict's upcoming revision, as you can read in Gary's installment. Foxman considers the changes to be simply cosmetic and still contain an attitude of "proselytization" for the "desire to end the distinctive Jewish way of life."

Regardless, I agree with Mr. Foxman, that the “clean-up” is merely cosmetic and betrays a frightening underlying trend in current papal teaching. If one thinks about it, much of these recent matters of concern began with the publication of Dominus Iesus. While promulgated under the patronage of John Paul II, late in his pontificate, it is well known that the document was crafted by the present pontiff.

And yes, the allowance for this prayer, (which is quite different from that of the present rite found in the 1970 Missal - see below), does a great disservice to the efforts of both Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, and a strong departure from their teachings.

If a conditional “re-instatement” of the Tridentine Rite was to be made at all, it should have been done exclusive of the “Paschal Triduum,” three days during which the church is to particularly pray together as one community. Indeed, the “liturgical instructions” say that the ritual is to be considered as “one service” from the start of the Holy Thursday evening mass, until the conclusion of the Easter Vigil. To make this evident, no greeting or dismissal is given between these services.

I have been wondering from the beginning, when and how it might be appropriate, to celebrate the rites of the Triduum in accordance with Tridentine practices, under the currently stated conditions for the use of the 1962 Missal. In the opinion of some litugists and Vatican observers, the Triduum is still to be celebrated only according to the 1970 Missal.

When and in which parishes is there going to be an opportunity to celebrate this archaic rite, if the current missal is to be considered “normative” as the directive says? It is my understanding that there generally can be only one celebration of the Triduum in each parish church.

Unfortunately, debate surrounding this “Prayer for the Conversion of the Jews” and the old rite in general is not bringing up positive impressions of the church’s positions. I hope that 40 years of progress does not lead to 150 years of regression.

Most comfort can be taken in the doubt that there will be many serious and lasting requests for the celebration of the old missal in the majority of parishes in the US or in other countries. Too much has happened, and this for the good, in the four decades since the liturgical changes.


The "normative prayer" from the (Roman) Liturgy of Good Friday of today, (one of a series of "prayers of the faithful" for various intentions) from the Missal of 1970, reads as below. There is no explicit mention of a so-called "conversion of the Jews" although there is a petition that they receive the "fullness of redemption," a concept not present in Jewish theology.

For the Jewish People

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.

Silent prayer. Then the priest sings or says:

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.

- The Roman Missal 1985 edition -

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