The Vatican and the Jews

The Vatican announced yesterday that Pope Benedict would meet briefly with Jewish leaders during his trip to Washington and New York City this month. At the same time, perhaps in preparation for the possible opposition from Jewish leaders on the language of the "Good Friday prayers" that are part of the newly reinvigorated Latin Mass, the Vatican released a statement today on the Church’s commitment to the Vatican II documents on the Jewish people. The story from Catholic News Service is printed in full below. VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- By Cindy Wooden
Pope Benedict XVI’s revised prayer for the Jews for use in the Tridentine-rite Good Friday liturgy does not indicate any form of stepping back from the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, the Vatican said. "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," said an April 4 statement
from the Vatican press office.
In early February, the Vatican published Pope Benedict’s revision of the Good
Friday prayer, which is used only in the liturgy celebrated according to the
1962 Roman Missal, or Tridentine rite. The rite is no longer widely used by
Catholics but may be used by some church communities under recently revised
The new prayer removed language referring to the "blindness" of the Jews, but
it prays that Jews will recognize Jesus, the savior, and that "all Israel may be
The April 4 statement said some members of the Jewish community felt the new
prayer was "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 40 years."
In particular, some Jews, as well as some Catholics, felt the prayer
contained an explicit call to attempt to convert Jews to Christianity.
In an article published in Germany in late March and scheduled for
publication in the Vatican newspaper before April 15, Cardinal Walter Kasper
said that on the basis of a long history of compulsory catechesis and forced
conversion, "many Jews consider a mission to the Jews as a threat to their
"The Catholic Church has no organized or institutionalized mission to the
Jews," said the cardinal, who is president of the Pontifical Commission for
Religious Relations with the Jews.
That statement of fact, he said, is backed up with a theological position in
the revised 1962 prayer’s second line: "Almighty and everlasting God, you who
want all men to be saved and to reach the awareness of the truth, graciously
grant that, as the full number of the Gentiles comes into your church, all
Israel may be saved."
The second line echoes the teaching of St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans
that God’s promise of salvation to his chosen people has not been revoked and
that once all the nations are gathered under Christ, the Jewish people will be
saved, Cardinal Kasper said.
"So one can say: God will bring about the salvation of Israel in the end, not
on the basis of a mission to the Jews, but on the basis of the mission to the
Gentiles, when the fullness of the Gentiles has entered" into Christ, the
cardinal wrote.
At the same time, Cardinal Kasper said, Christians do believe in the promise
of salvation in Jesus Christ and no one should be surprised that Christians pray
for the salvation of all people and that "tactfully and respectfully" they give
witness to their faith in Jesus.
The Vatican’s April 4 statement did not mention missionary activity or
attempts to convert Jews.
Rather, it affirmed the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, particularly
its recognition of "the unique bond with which the people of the New Testament
is spiritually linked with the stock of Abraham," its condemnation of
anti-Semitism as well as its promotion of "esteem, dialogue, love, solidarity
and collaboration between Christians and Jews."
Rabbi David Rosen, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish
Committee, told Catholic News Service April 4 that the Vatican statement was "an
important clarification."
"I think it contains a very important implicit statement -- which I would
have been happier to see made explicit -- that if one accepts (the Vatican II
document) ’Nostra Aetate,’ then they must demonstrate esteem for Judaism, which
precludes proselytism," Rabbi Rosen said.
The rabbi said the April 4 statement does not contain all of the elements he
had been told in early March would be included in a clarification from Cardinal
Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state.
Rabbi Rosen said he still expects Cardinal Bertone’s statement to be sent to
members of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, which had been promised the
A Vatican official said that by releasing the April 4 statement as a
communique from the Vatican Secretariat of State, it made clear the fact that it
reflects the official position of the Vatican and not simply the position of an
individual cardinal.

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