Vatican Clarified New Good Friday Prayer for Jews, Authorized Comment from Cardinal Kasper

Source: FSSPX News


Following the polemics to which the recent modification of the Good Friday prayer pro judæis in the 1962 missal gave rise in Jewish circles, the Holy See desired to “clarify the misunderstandings.” Thus, in an official communiqué released on April 4 by the Vatican Press Office, Roman authorities affirmed that they did not change their attitude towards the Jews, and thereby rejected “any kind of anti-Semitism.”

“Following the publication of the new Prayer for the Jews for the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal, some groups within the Jewish community have expressed disappointment that it is not in harmony with the official declarations and statements of the Holy See regarding the Jewish people and their faith which have marked the progress of friendly relations between the Jews and the Catholic Church over the last forty years,” the communiqué read. “The Holy See wishes to reassure that the new formulation of the Prayer, which modifies certain expressions of the 1962 Missal, in no way intends to indicate a change in the Catholic Church’s regard for the Jews which has evolved from the basis of the Second Vatican Council, particularly the Declaration Nostra Aetate. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI, in an audience with the Chief Rabbis of Israel on 15 September 2005, remarked that this document has proven to be a milestone on the road towards the reconciliation of Christians with the Jewish people. The continuation of the position found in Nostra Aetate is clearly shown by the fact that the prayer contained in the 1970 Missal continues to be in full use, and is the ordinary form of the prayer of Catholics.”

The official communiqué meant to underline “the bonds of esteem, dialogue, love, solidarity and collaboration between Catholics and Jews.” According to the document, the Catholic Church “ejects every attitude of contempt or discrimination against Jews, firmly repudiating any kind of anti-Semitism."

By way of conclusion, “The Holy See hopes that the explanations made in this statement will help to clarify any misunderstanding. It reiterates the unwavering desire that the concrete progress made in mutual understanding and the growth in esteem between Jews and Christians will continue to develop.”

During the month of March, the press had heard that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State of the Holy See, was about to write to the Great Rabbi of Israel to clarify the position of the Catholic Church in the matter. To date, the text from the Secretary of State has not been published.

On the other hand, on April 10, in The Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Roman official in charge of dialogue with Judaism, declared that the Church does not want to convert the Jews, and calls for “sincere” dialogue, and “mutual respect” between the two religions. The reactions of the Jewish world to the new formulation of the Good Friday prayer, he said, were more “emotional” than “rational.” According to him, both the cultural and historical contexts must be kept in mind. “Many Jewish friends who have been for years committed to an intense dialogue with Christians, still keep a keen collective memory of forced catechism classes and conversions.” “Many Jews consider mission directed towards them as a threat for their existence. Sometimes, they (…) speak of a Shoah perpetrated by other means.”

In the relations between Jews and Christians, we must evidence great tactfulness, insisted the German prelate. We must remain aware that dialogue between Jews and Christians will always be difficult and fragile, by its very nature, and that it demands much tact from both sides. The cardinal admitted that in the new formula of the prayer we do not find the word “conversion”, the title of the prayer “for the Jews” has not been modified and says as before: “for the conversion of the Jews.” Many Jews read the new formula along the line of the title, and this gave rise to reactions, regretted Cardinal Kasper, who endeavored to reassure them by recalling that the Good Friday prayer which has for a long time been adopted by most of the Catholics is that of the Post-Vatican II Missal (1970). Whereas the prayer re-formulated for the conversion of the Jews in the Tridentine Missal (1962) was adopted only by a minute portion of the community, and thus cannot mean a step backward compared to the Conciliar Declaration Nostra Ætate of the Second Vatican Council.

The Catholic Church, unlike some Evangelical churches, does not have any organized and institutionalized mission towards the Jews, the cardinal underlined, while inviting them to a theological dialogue. “If today, we commit ourselves to mutual respect, it can only be based  “on a mutual acknowledgment of ‘our diversity’,” he explained. “Thus, we do not expect the Jews to agree with the Christologic contents of the Good Friday prayer, but that they respect the fact we pray for our faith as Christians, just as we likewise respect their manner of praying.”

And the cardinal went on to explain that the prayer was not a call made by the Church to fulfill a missionary action with regards to the Jews, but “the expression of a hope, an intercession made to God” that “his kingdom come, in which all of Israel will be saved and eschatological peace will come to the world.”

Nevertheless, Cardinal Kasper concluded, excluding a mission organized for the Jews does not mean that Christians must remain with arms folded. These latter “must give witness to their own faith,” when it is opportune. “Such a witness is also necessary for us today. However, it must be given with respect and tact. It would be dishonest for Christians to keep silent about their own faith, or to openly deny it, in their meetings with their Jewish friends.” (Sources: Apic/Imedia)


Our Comment: Given the official role of Cardinal Kasper, the president of the Commission for religious relations with Judaism, we must consider this explanation of the new prayer pro judæis as an authorized comment. In spite of the final affirmation that bearing witness to the faith remains an obligation for Christians, we note that for the Roman prelate this new prayer precludes any missionary action toward the Jews. It is “the expression of a hope, an intercession made to God” that “his kingdom come, in which all of Israel will be saved, and eschatological peace will come to the world.”

Already on February 7, on the airwaves of Radio Vatican, Cardinal Kasper had explained that mission was only for the pagans, ad gentes, and not for the Jews, ad Judæos. In other words, conversion is for the pagans, it does not concern the Jews. In the past, we used to pray for their conversion, now we simply ask that, at the end of times, when all the nations will have entered, Israel be saved. Such an eschatological prayer will be answered anyway, since Sacred Scripture tells us that the Jews will convert at the end of the world. But we no longer ask for the conversion of today’s Jews.