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By Rachel Pomerance and Francis X. Rocca
Religion News Service

Conservative rabbis expressed their “dismay” this week over a traditional Good Friday prayer that calls for the conversion of Jews that Pope Benedict XVI revised but left largely intact.
In a last-minute resolution added to the agenda of the Rabbinical Assembly’s annual convention in Washington, the Conservative rabbis voted unanimously Tuesday (Feb. 12) to label the pope’s action a setback in years of improved Jewish-Catholic relations.
The Good Friday prayer — used only in the Latin Mass that was revived by the pope last summer — now includes a plea for God to “enlighten” the hearts of Jews, “that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ as the savior of all men.”
In response, the 1,600-member Rabbinical Assembly’s resolution states that it is “dismayed and deeply disturbed” by the revision and will “seek clarifaction from the Vatican of the meaning and status of the new text for the Latin liturgy.”
At the same time, the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture downplayed tensions with Jewish groups, saying the Good Friday prayer is more an “expression of affection” for Christianity’s roots in the Jewish faith.
“It is not … a missionary strategy of conversion” Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi wrote in a front-page article in Friday’s (Feb. 15) edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper. “…One wishes a reality that one holds precious and salvific for the persons whom one regards as near, dear and significant.”
Jewish groups are particularly concerned the prayer may hamper 40 years of improved Catholic-Jewish relations, ever since the church acknowledged an existing Jewish covenant with God and largely dropped calls for Jewish conversions.
“Our relationship with the church is really very good,” said Rabbi Joel Meyers, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly. “So it is rather disappointing to find there is a theological issue that comes back in to play at this particular time when so much progress has been made, and although various church authorities are saying, well, it is just a minor matter, it really raises certain theological issues again.”
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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