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By Francis X. Rocca
2008 Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY — With his decision last July to liberalize use of the Old Latin Mass, Pope Benedict XVI sought to appease traditionalists disaffected by recent changes to Catholic worship.
But in making it easier for priests to celebrate the so-called Tridentine Rite, Benedict also resurrected a controversial prayer used on Good Friday that called for the conversion of the Jews.
On Tuesday (Feb. 5), just in time for Lent, the Vatican published a new version of the prayer clearly designed to allay Jewish concerns.
Gone is the reference to Jews’ “blindness” and the request that God “take the veil from their hearts.”
The new prayer calls upon God to “enlighten (Jews’) hearts so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ, the savior of all men” and expresses the hope that “all Israel may be saved.”
Yet judging from initial reactions to Benedict’s solution, the formula for preserving Catholic tradition while promoting the interfaith harmony that sprouted in the 1960s remains elusive — both inside and outside the church.
“We are deeply troubled and disappointed that the framework and intention to petition God for Jews to accept Jesus as Lord was kept intact,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the New York-based Anti-Defamation League.
The International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, which represents a dozen international Jewish groups, also issued a declaration of “deep regret and disappointment” over the new text.
According to one expert on Catholic liturgy, the revised prayer continues to pose difficulties for the church’s interfaith outreach, which was born after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, the same time the old Tridentine Rite was retired.
“There is a tension that will not go well with the furthering of Jewish-Christian relations,” said the Rev. Keith F. Pecklers, an American who teaches at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University.
“It’s a slight improvement over the original text,” he said, “but not much more.”
Instead of modifying the Tridentine text, the pope could have applied language from the post-Vatican II liturgy, a step that “would have certainly solved the problem,” Pecklers said.
The Good Friday prayer for Jews in the 1970 Roman Missal, now used by most Catholic congregations around the world, refers to Jews as “the first to hear the word of God” and prays that “they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant.”
The Vatican’s secretary of state and No. 2 official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, suggested last July that the relevant section of the Tridentine liturgy could be replaced by the Latin version of the 1970 prayer.
But such a move would have been unacceptable to traditionalists, notes the Rev. John T. Zuhlsdorf, whose Web site “What Does the Prayer Really Say?” is popular among devotees of the Old Latin Mass.
“It would have been a different prayer,” he said.
For some, Zuhlsdorf predicts, even the pope’s more limited revision will seem too radical.
“There are going to be a lot of hysterical reactions,” he said.
“Some will really hate this prayer simply because it’s change.”
But other traditionalists “will read this prayer carefully and will come to realize that it is actually in substance pretty darn good,” Zuhlsdorf said. “The substance of the prayer … remains the same.
However, instead of talking about blindness, now we’re talking about illumination.”
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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